Meintjies muscles up | TeamSA - TeamSA

Meintjies muscles up

As the countdown to the 2012 Olympics in London ticks ever onwards, the South African sporting fraternity are on a continual look-out for our stars of the future.

In little Louis Meintjies they may just have found something special. Toyota Supercycling Academy rider, Louis Meintjies, claimed the Best Young Rider title at the Le Coq Sportif Tour de Boland last week. A good feat in itself but more significantly, he finished seventh overall in what has been described as one of the toughest road cycling events in the country and prompting industry experts to take note of this diminutive racer.

Meintjies, who lives in Rustenburg in the North West province, left school last year and also left the Junior racing category, which he dominated in 2010, winning both the time trial and the road race at the South African championships as well as claiming the title at the annual National Junior Tour.

He turned 19 on 21 February during the Cell C Tour of South Africa where he was aiming to challenge for the Best Young Rider title. However, a crash at an inopportune time saw him slip out of contention for that hotly-contested crown. He did complete the tour and in the process gained good form, which he took advantage of at the Tour de Boland last week.

He finished third on Stage Three behind Johann Rabie and Darren Lill, who were second and first respectively in the final General Classification. For a teenager to be challenging for stage wins in a tour like that is rare.

But even before his ability became more widely noticed, Meintjies’ potential was spotted when Barry Austin, probably the most successful coach of young riders in South Africa, approached him last year. Austin also coached the late Carla Swart, who was rated as a possible medal contender at the 2012 Olympics.

ÔÇ£If you want to be the best then you must be coached by the best,ÔÇØ said Meintjies. ÔÇ£Barry’s coaching record speaks for itself and when he approached me, my coach at the time said ‘go for it’, which really gives you an idea of how good Barry is.ÔÇØ

As a member of the Toyota Supercycling Academy racing team, which is managed and mentored by former top pro, Nic White, Meintjies gets all the support he requires to train and race full time during a life stage when most teenagers are taking a gap year, trying to decide what it is they want to become.

ÔÇ£I’m studying a B.Com Accounts part time through UNISA,ÔÇØ said Meintjies, who matriculated with four distinctions. ÔÇ£I really don’t know what career path I want to follow yet, but can think about it while I’m racing full time. My goal is to race professionally on an international team some day.ÔÇØ

At just 1.68m and 60kg with powerful legs, Meintjies is the epitome of a climber, but earning the individual time trial silver medal behind Toyota Supercycling Academy teammate, Johann van Zyl, at the recent national championships indicates his prowess against the clock. Being able to climb and time trial with distinction are two of the most essential qualities of any accomplished stage race specialist.

Meintjies lives in a relatively flat part of the country and attributes his ability to climb well to the fact that he trains with a power meter.

ÔÇ£There are only small bumps around Rustenburg. But when you train to power, you train to the intensity that mimics climbing,ÔÇØ explained Meintjies.

ÔÇ£Louis has worked hard to get into shape for his first year as an Under-23 rider, but has shown great physical and mental toughness in his approach to racing. Finding his way through the bunch at key moments, he definitely has a keen sense of what to do in races, as well as the physical attributes to back his movements up,ÔÇØ said White.

ÔÇ£Nic is a great guy to have racing with us. He’s so experienced and knows exactly how to call a race. He is always talking to us during a race about our positioning and tactics. I have a lot of respect for him and it’s quite a privilege to have him as a mentor,ÔÇØ said Meintjies.

ÔÇ£The recent Tour de Boland had Louis racing the tougher stages with the front riders, and even producing a podium finish after a hard Stage 3, on his way to winning the best Under-23 rider jersey. It has been very satisfying to race with him and help him to achieve what he has in the short time we have spent together,ÔÇØ said White.

ÔÇ£Louis has the drive to get himself into the European scene, but as a 19-year-old, it may take a while to find the best possible avenue to ‘learn the trade’ hopefully making his way up the ranks to the top level of the sport,ÔÇØ added White.

Meintjies leaves next week for Europe where he will spend a few months racing for a Belgian club team.

ÔÇ£I will be doing mostly criteriums (street circuit races), but will be racing often and at high intensity. I raced as Junior for the same club last year. It’s a good place to learn. I still have a lot to learn. I want to go far in this sport.ÔÇØ