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Meintjes’ top 10 TDF finish a big boost ahead of Rio road race

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By Mark Etheridge

Former Manchester United football striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was known as the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin’ because of his youthful looks but deadly finishing. Team South Africa here at the Rio Olympics have the same sort of athlete in their ranks.
His name is Louis Meintjes and his eighth spot in the recent Tour de France cycle race speaks volumes of his deadly climbing ability.
On Saturday he and Daryl Impey will team up in the men’s road race over just more than 260km.
Replying to a question of what the Tour de France had given him, Meintjes’ answer revealed the hunger that lurks beneath the youthful exterior.
‘It definitely gave me a little bit of extra confidence but there were still seven guys in front of me,’ he smiled.
There’s been little respite for the Rustenburg, North West cyclist. The only day off he’s had since the TDF was the day of travel back to Livorno, Italy with his Lampre-Merida team.
Like Impey, he’s had a ride over the one section of the road race. ‘It’s pretty hard yes, but I would prefer it that way,’ he said.
On team tactics for him and Impey who will be up against a good few teams of five-strong riders, he said: ‘Well Daryl and I know each other quite well so we’ll know what to do. We just have to make sure we’re always in the race and then can decide what to do from there.
‘A lot will depend on the pace… whether it’s slow and controlled or whether the guys drill it up the hills. The latter sort of race would suit me more.
‘A race like this is always different though because in a Tour you’re racing for different categories etc and different jerseys. But this time out the only thing at stake are those three medals.’
And who does he rate as favourites for those medals. I think a guy like Alexander Valverde will be hard to beat as will France’s Romain Bardet.’
After the Games there’ll still be no respite for the diminutive Meintjes who weighs in a a tiny 56-57kg.
‘I’ve still got the Vuelta Espana coming up and then we have a final camp back in Livorno so I’m probably only looking at getting home in about October.’
Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a shiny little extra something nestling in his luggage!


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