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Tour de France

Louis Meintjes roars back into Tour de France classification fight with day in stage 14 escape

Spindly South African climber catapults six spots up GC and reverses early ill-fortune: 'Hopefully this time I don't lose time again.'

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MENDE, France (VN) – Call it “Tour de Renaissance” for Louis Meintjes.

Two days after Meintjes roared back into the spotlight with his ride to second on the Alpe d’Huez, the South African booked more time in the headlines on Saturday’s Tour de France stage to Mende.

Meintjes surged back onto the Tour’s classification scene with a day in the break that launched him into seventh in what was a ten-minute plunder of GC positions that reversed early ill-fortunes at this year’s race.

“It was always the plan to come and ride GC. I had a few bad days, and with the cobblestone stage, unfortunately, we lost some time. But now I got it back,” Meintjes told reporters on the Mende airstrip. “Hopefully this time I don’t lose time again.”

Also read: Second on Alpe d’Huez marks an important and emotional return to form for Louis Meintjes

Meintjes was hailed the “next big thing” of South African cycling when he rode to eighth in the 2016 and 2017 Tours.

After five years out of luck and off the grid, the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert captain is on track to level or better his Tour de France bests.

“It’s been a few difficult years, so to finally be up there again is nice,” he said after finishing second to Tom Pidcock (Ineos-Grenadiers) on Thursday.

Meintjes is making the most of his opportunities at this Tour de France as he relishes a mid-career resurgence of form.

Buoyed by a comeback ride on the Alpe d’Huez, the spindly South African bust into the day’s break on Saturday’s stage to Mende.

“I think it was always a day the break was gonna get some distance, so it was the goal to get in the move and maybe also to go for the stage,” he said.

Finishing 10th out of a bunch of baroudeuring beasts with a far different skillset was secondary to scaling the GC ahead of the third-week Pyrénéan climbs that suit his featherweight frame.

“I didn’t have the best feeling, and with all the flat and wind in such a big group it was a bit harder for a rider with my characteristics,” Meintjes said at the finish Saturday. “So at the end, I’m just happy we stayed away with a big margin.”

How far can Meintjes go at the Tour de France?

His Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team is on a tear after huge results from Biniam Girmay and Jan Hirt in the classics and Giro d’Italia. At 4:24 back and just two minutes from the podium, Meintjes’ moment might be next.

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