Louis Meintjes: South Africa’s mountain climbing hero

Louis Meintjes. Tour de France 2017, cycling, white jersey

Louis Meintjes in an interview as he started the last week of the Tour de France 2017. Photo: Digital Reporters

The race for the white jersey was also going to be one of the most intriguing subplots of the Tour de France 2017. Especially since one of the favourites was South Africa’s very own Louis Meintjes.

At 25-years old, it was his last chance to contest for this honour. After his strong showing at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June 2017, he sent a clear message that the white jersey was very much within his reach. He ended up thrashing ORICA-Scott’s Simon Yates by six minutes – a significant feat considering Yates would be his greatest threat for white jersey glory.

Louis Meintjes. Tour de France 2017, cycling, Stage 18, white jersey

Stage 18 of the Tour de France 2017. Photo: Wouter Roosenboom

As the Tour de France drew to a close, it was ultimately the flatter stages that proved to be in Yates’ favour. Meintjes got off to a shaky start, losing time in the first time trial. He then worryingly went on to surrender another 90 seconds in the mountainous Stage 9. A major blow came during Stage 16 when Meintjes was caught out of position as the peloton split up in heavy cross winds, and ended up losing over 50 seconds to Yates.

But Meintjes’ efforts to make up for lost time were phenomenal and he fought right to the very end. A stand out moment came during Stage 12 when he finished 5th, even leaving Chris Froome in his dust.

He also used every bit of mountain climbing grit he had to claw back almost two minutes on Stage 17 and 18. Unfortunately it was just not enough to beat Yates to the white jersey.

Despite this, it is with great pride to say that Meintjes managed to end the Tour sitting in 8th on the general classification. Here we have a legend in the making, and he’s made us dare to believe that we just might see a South African ride into Paris in the yellow jersey someday.

He’s been overwhelmed with the support from back home: “It’s been absolutely amazing. I can’t even read all the messages, there’s just not enough time after a stage. But I’m really grateful, and thanks to everyone who’s been sending messages of support,” said Meintjes in an interview with EWN.

Here’s a special tribute to our mountain climbing hero. We won’t soon forget camping out in front of our TVs, watching him go toe-to-toe with the best cyclists in the world.

Louis Meintjes. Tour de France 2017, cycling, white jersey

General Classification at the end of the Tour de France 2017.

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