Amid preparing for the Tour de France, South Africa’s Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) chatted to In the Bunch about his career, Grand Tour goals and who he considered favourites for this year’s La Grande Boucle.
ITB: There is a feeling in many quarters that you race conservatively. What is your take on this?
LM: I have heard that from people but what television doesn’t show is that often everyone is pushing themselves to their limit. I am getting more confident and try to attack more but, racing against the best in the world, it’s not always that easy. I have been riding and racing my bike for quite some time now and I have a pretty good feeling of what I can and cannot do. If I feel I can attack I do and if I am at my limit I don’t.
ITB: Do you feel that you need to ride more aggressively or take more chances to reach the next level and perhaps secure that podium finish in a Grand Tour?
LM: I think I need to race smart and to my strengths, so it will depend on the race situation if I need to be more aggressive or not. I don’t feel a better result is always strictly connected to a more aggressive attitude. An example is Tom Dumoulin. He won the Giro d’Italia by managing his energies and racing in a smart way, especially in the stages where he needed to limit his losses to the strong climbers.
ITB: How would you rate your current form compared to this time last year?
LM: I feel it’s similar and this is a good starting point in view of the Tour de France. Coming out of the Dauphiné, I feel quite good. I went on the attack on the second last stage to test the form and everything went right. The race has gone a long way in giving me the confidence for the next few weeks ahead.
ITB: Based on this, what are your objectives for the remainder of the year?
LM: The Tour de France is such a big thing and that’s what I am focused on. It’s the biggest and best race, it can make or break your career. So now is not the time to focus on the rest of the year. I am looking to have a good result there this year and will be targeting the best young rider jersey. My programme after the Tour de France will mostly depend on how I am feeling and on my form.
ITB: Last year you finished 8th in the Tour de France and in 2015 10th at the Vuelta a España. Did these achievements make you believe that you could one day be a Grand Tour winner?
LM: I definitely took some confidence from these results. It’s nice to take a step up every year and now I am able to stay with the best guys on the climbs for longer. The 2015 Vuelta was definitely a breakthrough for me. It made me believe and showed me the potential I have. I’m not sure yet if I can be a Grand Tour winner but that is definitely what I am working towards. I am learning more every year and feel like things are moving in the right direction.
ITB: As the first genuine South African Grand Tour contender, do you feel any pressure from the public to deliver?
LM: I receive a lot of support from back home and it’s much appreciated. I can only go to a race and give it 100 per cent, so if I do that there is no reason to feel pressure.
ITB: Who are your favourites for the Tour de France?
LM: You always have to put Chris Froome on that list. He is the defending champion and even though it looked like he might have been lacking something in the Dauphiné, you can be sure he will be good at the Tour. Richie Porte is looking good and Nairo Quintana can never be written off.