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Tour de France

Louis Meintjes never gave up & climbs in GC

With just 130 kilometers, stage 18 of the Tour de France – the last in the mountains – promised to be intense. After a relatively flat first half of the course, the riders had to climb a monument of the Grand Boucle, the Col du Tourmalet (17 km at 7.4%), followed up by the ascent towards Luz-Ardiden (13.4 km at 7.5%) ), which welcomed the third summit finish of this 108th edition.

After leaving Pau, several riders seemed to have distanced themselves from the peloton, but the latter accelerated as the intermediate sprint of Pouzac approached, just before the first slopes of the Tourmalet. The fugitives thus only had a one-minute lead at the foot of the Hors-Category climb. In the yellow jersey group, the riders of the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team were united around Louis Meintjes, 15th in the general classification.

Reinforced by several counter-attackers, the breakaway nevertheless managed to get to the summit of Tourmalet with a small lead. At the bottom of the long descent, the yellow jersey group was reduced to around 30 units. Team INEOS led this group towards the final ascent of Luz-Ardiden.

Distanced 8 kilometers from the summit, Louis Meintjes never gave up. Maintaining a steady pace all the way to the top, the South African got passed many competitors and rallied at the finish in 15th position, 1 minute 43 behind the winner Pogacar (UAE). In doing so, he climbs once more in the general classification, and occupies 14th place after 18 stages of the Tour de France.

The pace of the peloton was intense from start to finish, I don’t think we ever slowed down today. I relied on my feelings and the power I was developing, and all the signs were reassuring, including in the last climb. I lost a bit of distance after the acceleration at the bottom the climb to Luz-Ardiden, but I paced my effort quite well all the way to the top. My performance takes me up one spot in GC, which of course I am delighted about, however I want to stress that nothing is settled yet. I like to think that tomorrow's stage won't be decisive for the overall standings and I only have the time trial to worry about, but you have to be careful. As long as the line is not crossed, anything can happen in the Tour de France.


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