South African Louis Meintjes, who placed 8th overall at the Tour de France in both 2016 and 2017, says it would be great to ride in the event again this year.
He realises however that it is still uncertain whether it will go ahead as scheduled from June 27 due to the Covid-19 restrictions. A decision is expected in mid-May.
“I’ve really missed the Tour in the last few years,” said the 28-year-old, who could not ride in the Tour last year due to injury.
He also did not take part in 2018 as he was leading Dimension Data in the eight-day Tour of Austria, which took place at the same time.
“It’s the biggest thing in cycling – once you’ve been there and close to the front in relation to everything else that you do. It’s not that [the rest] isn’t worth it or something, it’s just that it’s sort of a stepping stone to get to the top at the Tour.
“I’m not sure if it will be the same with everything going on at the moment, and there are more important things to be worried about. But I would really love one day to be back at the Tour and really feeling good.”
Regarding the postponement of the Olympic Games to next year, the NTT Pro Cycling rider felt this might be a good thing for him.
The postponement would “give me time to actually get a result before and show that I should go”.
“I think it’s the best thing to do,” said Meintjes, who placed seventh in the Olympic road race in 2016.
“It is a pity for all the athletes that really prepared and did everything. But you don’t want it to come down to people having to take risks to go to qualifiers to make sure they arrive at the Games; to risk their health to do their sport.
“It’s clear that everyone has had some time to prepare and do their qualifying events. Go to the race without fearing anything and just focus on the sport.
“It’s unfortunate, but I think it would have been a mistake to try and force it to happen.”
He added that if he was the Olympic champion he would rather want to be the champion when all the best people were there and in the best shape, and have no excuses.
“If it was held this year then perhaps you can’t say that because some people are staying away because of the virus.”
Meintjes said the 2016 Olympics were amazing to be a part of, but he realised in Rio that that might have been his only chance to do well as it was a route that really suited him. Everything was perfect and he was flying.
“To replicate that I knew would be super hard, but then again the course this year would have been pretty hard.
“It was also a bit frustrating that I didn’t have any results to prove that I should go and I didn’t have any feedback from the national federation or anything. So you don’t really know if it’s worth preparing if you’re not going to be selected.
“I would have loved to go and had that certainty beforehand, but that put it into the background. So I rather decided to focus on things that I know, if I’m performing then the team will send me to the Tour, because that for sure I know is achievable.
“The Olympics would have been pretty much all down to luck to arrive at the start line.”
Meintjes is currently at his base in the Principality of Andorra, where he is staying indoors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Training and life has been spent mostly inside as they don’t want us to do anything outside here except to leave and go shopping for food. Everything happens indoors.
“It’s not been too bad really; a lot of hours on Zwift, lots of time to reorganise the house, sort out things and clean all of those things that you never really find the time for.
“I’ve been keeping in contact with family and friends. It’s not ideal, but I’m still coping pretty well.”