30 September 2013
South Africa’s Louis Meintjes raced to a silver medal in the under-23 road race at the UCI World Championships in Florence, Italy on Friday, with Matej Mohoric of Slovenia taking the gold medal.
“I’m extremely happy,” Meintjes, the current South African under-23 road race and individual time trial champion, said at the finish. “This was a goal of mine all season.
“World champs is always a special race and I’ve been doing it three years in a row. Being an under-23 race, it should technically be a little easier than the level we’ve (Team MTN-Qhubeka) been racing at this year, so I thought I can maybe get a result.
“When I saw the route after it was launched, I had extra motivation. I went and trained on the circuit and it gave me great confidence.”
The South African World Championships team started the race with three riders, also including Meintjes’ Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung teammate Johann van Zyl and Christopher Jennings. With less riders than the other nations, the team had to rely on riding a clever race.
“My plan was to follow wheels and wait until the last hour and see what’s left of the race. I started feeling really well as the race went on. As soon as we got on the finishing circuit, I could feel I had the legs today,” the 21-year-old Meintjies reckoned.
‘Hard work paying off’
“I think this is hard work paying off. I think this is going to happen for a lot of riders in Africa and South Africa. It’s just a matter of time before we see more names coming through. This is a result of what we’re trying to do with Team MTN-Qhubeka and the investment all our sponsors are putting in,” he added.
The race started in Montecatini Terme and finished in Firenze Mandela Forum, a sports stadium named in honour of former South African president Nelson Mandela, which made the day more special for the South African team.
It was contested over 173 kilometres and included seven laps on the finishing circuit. Meintjes was among the front-runners with two laps to go and then put in a major attack on the last lap to get to Mohoric.
The gold medal winner pulled away on the descent to the finish, with Meintjes holding off the chasing peloton to finish three seconds behind the Slovenian.
‘A major talent’
“We identified Louis as a major talent a few years ago and I’ve always admired his work ethic,” Team MTN-Qhubeka Team Principal Douglas Ryder said in a statement.
“As a team, we believe he’s a major star for the future, which is why we’re investing heavily in athletes likes him.
“We really believe in the South African and African dream. When we made it public a few years ago that we want to develop an African world champion, it was very ambitious. With the increased support from our amazing partners like MTN and Samsung, people can now see that our dreams and goals are a reality.”
Toyota Cycle Lab Academy
Meintjes, like Tour de France champion Chris Froome, began his journey to success by spending three of his formative years with the Toyota Cycle Lab Academy, from 2009 to 2011.
“It’s great to see Louis doing so well. He’s obviously in a great team environment with top support at MTN Qhubeka. When he raced with the Toyota Cycle Lab Academy, we could see he was destined for great things,” Nic White, who oversees the running of the Toyota Cycle Lab Academy, said in a statement on the weekend.
“Our team manager Mark van der Merwe told me that Louis was the best rider he’d ever seen. He’s got the whole package: the right temperament, tactical sense and physical suitability. He’s also highly intelligent and conscientious, so is actually a pleasure to have in a team.”