Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) is tantalisingly close to finishing his first ever Tour de France and the young South African is holding onto hope that he can crown that achievement with a top 10 finish. Meintjes is hovering just 32 seconds off that goal but has Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) and 2015 Vuelta a Espana victor Fabio Aru (Astana) in his way.
"It's definitely a target. You have to be able to aim for something and try for something, and I think that's what I'm going to try and to do," Meintjes told Cyclingnews ahead of stage 16, the final stage before the second rest day. "I'm happy I've been able to climb with the best. It's so nice when the hard work pays off, and now I'm looking to the third week and hoping that we can improve on the 12th place."
Meintjes came to the Tour de France as Lampre-Merida's leader alongside the experienced Rui Costa. Right from the start, Meintjes has been consistently up near the front in the latter part of the mountain stages. He ended the Pyrenean stint of the Tour in ninth overall but got found out in the windy stage to Montpellier, losing a minute to the other GC contenders. Since then, he's been clawing his way back, and he's confident going into the final four mountain stages.
"It's been pretty tough and just making no mistakes has been the hardest bit," said Meintjes. "My body is still feeling good; my legs are still feeling good, and it's all about staying out of trouble and staying concentrated and not making any mistakes."
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"I think that very much every day after today is going to be a test. I think there's going to be some changes. Hopefully, I can keep on going the way I'm going. The climbs look pretty good for me."
Making it to Paris is a goal within itself for Meintjes, who was unable to finish his debut Tour de France due to illness. Riding for MTN-Qhubeka at the time, the 24-year-old was just days from riding onto the Champs Elysees. However, he fell ill with gastroenteritis and was forced to abandon.
"It's certainly something that's on my mind, and I'd definitely like to finish the Tour de France for the third time. I think last year was good motivation in preparing for the Tour de France," he said. "The Tour de France is just the biggest race it's quite a lot more popular back home in South Africa so, personally, it means quite a bit more."
Following the rest day, the Tour de France will resume on Wednesday with a 184.5km stage from Bern to the summit finish on Finhaut Emosson.