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Tour de France

Meintjes delivers another solid performance in the Pyrenees

The second summit finish of this Tour de France was on the program for stage 17, contested this Wednesday between the towns of Muret (Haute-Garonne) and Saint-Lary-Soulan (Hautes-Pyrénées). The riders had to complete 115 kilometers of flat before heading towards a mountainous triptych, made up of the Col de Peyresourde (13.3 km at 6.9%), the Col de Val Louron (6.8 km at 7.9%) and the final climb of Col du Portet (16.4 km at 8.6%), classified Hors Catégorie.

For the second time on this 108th Grande Boucle, Danny van Poppel managed to join the early breakaway. Evading from the peloton at kilometer 15 with five other riders, he had also ensured the presence of Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert at the front of the race for the second consecutive stage. The leading group could count up to 8 minutes on the peloton as the intermediate sprint of Bagnères-de-Luchon approached, located just before the first climb of the day.

Like his team-mate Jan Bakelants the day before, Danny van Poppel won the intermediate sprint before entering the Col de Peyresourde. Fifth in Carcassonne on stage 13, the Dutch sprinter fought valiantly to stay in the leading group, and managed to tip over to the top of the 1st category pass with his fellow breakaway companions.

Danny van Poppel’s journey at the front of the race, 29 years to the day after his father Jean-Paul’s stage victory on the Tour routes in Strasbourg, lasted all the way up to the Col de Val Louron. The gap with the peloton, led by the yellow jersey team, had halved as they tackled the final climb of the day, the Col du Portet.

The competitors for the general classification decided to make things happen in this final climb. Louis Meintjes accompanied the yellow jersey group, reduced to twenty riders at the foot. As usual, the South African went through the slopes of the demanding Col du Portet at his own pace, without exploding, after the race leader Pogacar (UAE) launched his attack more than 8 kilometers from the finish. Reaching the top above 2000 meters altitude, Meintjes takes 14th place, and therefore remains fifteenth in the general classification.

It was a different stage than usual on this Tour de France, with a strong headwind and the control from the teams competing for the polka dot jersey. So the chances for the breakaway to make it till the end were slim, which is why I stayed in the yellow jersey group. I had a good feeling in the climbs, and the goal for me was to hang on as long as possible. This fourteenth place is a positive result in the end, on the eve of the last mountain stage of this Tour de France.

It was important for the team to be represented in the breakaway. I was pleased to honor our colors for the second time on this Tour de France. Our leading group was particularly strong as it was not easy for the peloton to catch us. Even though there was little I could do in the climbs, it's still a special feeling to be in front for a good part of the day, and I'm especially thrilled for the team.


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