South Africa’s Louis Meintjes powered his way to fifth spot in Thursday’s stage 12 of the Tour de France and made up a valuable 20 seconds in the Young Riders category.
The tiny, but deceptively powerful Meintjes was just seven seconds off the pace as the host nation’s Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) conquered the mountainous 214.5-kilometre stage between Pau and Peryagudes.
That was after a brave breakaway by African outfit Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka’s Steve Cummings had seen him almost manage to hold off the top favorites all the way to the line.
With 3km to the top of Port de Balès, Cummings decided to go solo. The British national champion dropped Thomas De Gendt and took on the whole peloton in the difficult mountainous terrain. As he started on the penultimate climb of the day, Col du Peyresourde, he had 2:10 minutes on the group of favourites chasing behind.
However, as Team Sky upped the pace and the gradients started to get extra steep, the gap quickly came down.
Cummings fought courageously, but with 8.5 km to go, was caught by the overall favourites.
Italian champion Fabio Aru managed to overtake Team Sky’s Chris Froome in the battle for the yellow jersey and now leads by six seconds.
Meintjes has broken into the top 10 and is 4:51 back. Next-best South African is Daryl Impey in 76th spot (1:19:33 back), followed by the Dimension Data duo of Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (137th, +1:49:21) and Jaco Venter (171st, +2:11:44).
In the Young Riders competition, Meintjes’ efforts on Thursday now see him 2:38 down on Orica-Scott’s Simon Yates.
‘Really happy with my performance yesterday. Everything happened really quickly in the end. It was all about positioning and not wasting energy. It will be hard to get more time back on the white jersey, but I’m not giving up,’ said Meintjes on his social media feed.
Good news for Dimension Data is that they’ve moved up from being wooden spoonists in the team competition and now lie 20th, 3:01:07 behind Team Sky.
Friday’s stage is a short and sharp ride of 101km between Saint-Girons to Foix, but it doesn’t get any easier as there are three category one climbs crammed in.
It’s going to be fast and furious with a fast downhill finish to Foix, where the tour will be welcomed by the town’s 1000-year-old castle.