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Tour de France

Meintjes, now 19th in GC : “We will keep fighting”

This Sunday, the ninth stage of the Tour de France lead the riders, like the day before, for a short stage through the Alps. Five climbs were spread over the 145 kilometers of the course, including the Hors-Categorie ascent of the Col du Pré around the halfway point, and a finish at the Tignes resort (2119 meters). This second and last day in the Alps also welcomed the first summit finish of this 108th Grande Boucle.

Once again, the attacks fired from the start in Cluses, Haute-Savoie, and the acceleration did not stop in the first hour, as many interested in the intermediate sprint located after the Côte de Domancy (2.6 km to 8, 8%) refused to let go. When it came time to tackle the next climb, the Col des Saisies (9.4 km at 6.2%), a group of forty riders had broken away, including Louis Meintjes, 21st in the general classification.

Several riders of the breakaway, interested in the polka dot jersey, fractured the leading group. Meintjes, in a second group of about twenty men, remained at a reasonable distance from the front of the race in the climb of the Col du Pré (12.5 km at 7.9%), however the cold and the rain, omnipresent for the last two days, got the better of many riders in the Cormet du Roselend (5.9 km at 6.6%) and its subsequent descent.

Meintjes, like the rest of the peloton, then fought under horrible weather conditions to reach the long climb to Tignes (20.8 km at 5.6%). The fugitive Ben O’Connor (Ag2r) won the race in almost four and a half hours. Meintjes crossed the line alongside teammate Lorenzo Rota, in 33rd position. His performance of the day allows him to enter the top 20, and to occupy the 19th place in the general classification on the eve of the first rest day.

After giving everything in this hard stage, frozen but combative till the very end, Loïc Vliegen did not manage to reach the finish in Tignes on time. Also affected by a sore knee, our Belgian must leave the roads of the Tour de France.

Like yesterday, it was a very intense start, but this time I managed to make it in the breakaway. The pace was very high in the climbs, add to that the weather which weighed heavily. I got help from Lorenzo Rota when I got back in the yellow jersey group, and he accompanied me until the end. The 19th place overall is not what I was hoping for, so I will continue to fight in the coming stages.

I was suffering from my knee since the crash on stage 1, due to the extreme conditions today, things got even more difficult. I spent practically the whole day alone, forced to adopt a different position on the bike due to the pain, and in doing so, a backache added to my misery. I did everything to get to the line on time, but unfortunately the Tour ends prematurely for me. Now, I have to recover and will try to focus on new goals.

I was pleased that Louis Meintjes managed to make the breakaway, as we had planned. Unfortunately, the accumulation of climbs at almost 2,000 meters altitude, and the descents with rainy and cold weather affected him. He fought until the finish and now he's in the top 20 overall, which is a good thing. I am obviously sad for Loïc Vliegen, who fought admirably despite his knee pain and who like everyone else suffered from the weather. The Tour de France is hard and cruel. But knowing him, he will come back stronger.


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