Despite losing some ground on the gruelling queen stage of the Tour de France on Sunday, Louis Meintjes kept South Africa in the fight.
Tackling the gruelling 181.5 kilometres between Nantua and Chambery, the race took its toll as strong general-classification contenders Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte both suffered broken bones in high speed crashes.
Rigobert Uran of Cannondale-Drapac won the stage in 5hr 07min 02sec of brutal riding, with Chris Froome’s third securing him the yellow jersey.
Meintjes seemed to conserve some of his energy for later in the race and was 14th, the UAE Team Emirates rider 3:32 back.
He now lies 11th in the general classification, exactly five minutes behind Froome and is now second in the Best Young Rider standings, 2:58 behind Orica-Scott’s Simon Yates.
Next best of the South Africans is Meintjes’ fellow Olympian Daryl Impey (pictured above – 72nd, +55:44), and he’s followed by Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (142nd, 1:21:22 back) and Jaco Venter(178th, 1:41:10).
Janse van Rensburg and Venter’s African outfit, Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, remain rooted to the bottom of the team category, 2:20:18 behind Team Sky.
The stage started out with two categorised climbs within the opening 16km. A strong group of riders quickly got away and opened up a big gap on the peloton, which seemed to be content with the situation. As the front group crowned the fifth of the day’s seven categorised climbs, the pack was nearly six minutes down. However, on the following 50km, the distance shortened rapidly and at the bottom of the final climb, only three minutes separated the first riders from the group of the overall favourites.
On the sleep slopes towards the top of Mont du Chat, several of the GC riders tried to put in a few attacks, which thinned out the group significantly. At the top, only a handful of riders were left in the group of the yellow jersey. The biggest drama on the stage however, happened on the technical descent, as Porte (BMC) and Daniel Martin (Quick Step Floors) both crashed hard.
Porte had to abandon the race, while Martin was able to continue.
Ultimately, the stage ended in a sprint within a very select group of favorites. Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) first seemed to have taken the win, but after a photo-finish, Uran was awarded the stage victory.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Serge Pauwels paid the price for his impressive performance on Saturday and crossed the line in 50th place. He’s now 32nd overall as Chris Froome (Team Sky) continues to lead the race.
Unfortunately, the team lost Mark Renshaw, as the Australian sprinter didn’t make the time cut. Neither did the former stage winner and French champion Arnaud Démare (FDJ), who finished in the same group as Renshaw.
On Monday, the riders will be able to enjoy a well-deserved rest day before the Tour de France continues with another stage for the sprinters on Tuesday.
The stage is 178km between Perigueux and Bergerac, with little in the way of climbs, but the longer climbs in the second half of the Tour still lie in wait.
Picture of Impey courtesy of Getty Images