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Meintjes the man for SA as he seals seventh in road race
- Updated: August 6, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
Eighth in the recent Tour de France, South Africa’s Louis Meintjes went one better with a seventh spot in a gruelling men’s cycle road race at Fort Copacabana on Saturday.
And he can pat team-mate and fellow Tour de France rider Daryl Impey who did a lot of the donkey work in the earlier stages.
The venue was rocked by a controlled explosion by military close to the finish line but the race itself was also an explosive affair with cobbles and crashes a plenty.
The race got underway under a heavy defence force presence with at least four helicopters hovering above the venue as well as a navy craft just off the beach.
Meintjes, rapidly making a name for himself as one of the globe’s best climbers ended 22sec down on Belgium’s gold medal winnner Greg van Avermaet and not a whole way off silver medallist Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark and Rafal Majka of Poland who won bronze.
A six-man breakaway got away until 78km to go when it became four and with 47 of the 237km to ride it was sole Pole Michal Kwiatkowski out front.
As the race got into the business end Meintjies moved into the leading group, along with Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez with just 18km to race.
A tortuous descent down to the Copacabana beachfront saw Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and Colombia’s Sergio Luis Henao Montoya going down hard, to wails of angst from a large Italian press gallery.
That left Poland’s Rafal Majka 11sec ahead with 5km to go but he was hauled in by the eventual medallists inside 2km and despite trying to hang on he was left outgunned in the final push for the line.
A team player to the hilt, Meintjes said: ‘Hopefully the team builds on my race today, it was a really long hot day and me and Daryl worked well with what he had with our capabilities and it was also great that Daryl was able to be in there into the last bit of the race.’
As for Impey he said SA cycling could be proud. ‘I think we compared really well against the other nations, many of whom had five riders. So, yes, I’m very chuffed.
‘It cost a lot of energy to stay where we were and then Louis had a go at the bottom of the last climb.
‘But that course just wore everyone down and I was actually happy to get that far int he race. I’m also excited to have helped Louis and the young guys coming up through the ranks can look at today as a nice example of what we have to do in future.’
There was also words of praise from fellow South African TDF rider, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg. Great riding @LouisMeintjes & @darylimpey. Job well done,’ he tweeted after the race.