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Meintjes shines in Ireland

The Toyota Supercycling Academy celebrated its ongoing success of 2009 when Louis Meintjes, racing for the national team, won the second stage of the Junior Tour of Ireland on Wednesday.

The Grade 12 pupil from Rustenburg broke clear of the main pack in the final kilometres of the undulating 109km stage along with Matt Bailey (BCF West Midlands). Meintjes outsprinted Bailey for the stage win, but Bailey was content as he gained the race leader’s Yellow Jersey in the move.

Meintjes is lying third on General Classification, seven seconds down on Bailey with four stages remaining.

While his stage win in Ireland has been widely praised, it was Meintjes’ 25th place at last weekend’s GP General Patton in Luxembourg that represented a significant success story for the Toyota Supercycling Academy and confirmed the arrival of a new era for South African cycling.

The two-day race is one of eight events on the International Cycling Union’s 2009 Nations Cup for Juniors. In other words, it’s one of the world’s highest profile races for 18- and 19-year-olds.┬á

Meintjes finished in the large bunch a few seconds behind a five-rider break on the 102km first stage. But more impressive was his strong ride on Day 2, which saw him make the crucial split on the 98km second stage and finish a respectable 23rd. That put him 25th on General Classification, 40 seconds behind winner, Jan Hirt of the Czech Republic. Christopher Jennings, the current South African Junior champion, was the only other South African to finish (38th @ 1:44). 

The GP General Patton is the fourth leg of the 2009 UCI Nations Cup, but significantly, is the final round prior to the World Championships, which take place on August 7-8 in Russia. Like many other countries, South Africa will use the Nations Cup performances to finalise a team for the World Championships.

Meintjes first shot into the cycling limelight in 2008 when he won the National Under-16 Tour. Then in April this year he finished tie first (with Jennings) on time at the National Junior Tour, but was relegated to second place after a count-back on stage positions.

ÔÇ£There’s a lot more to Louis’ result in Luxembourg in that much of him being there in the thick of the action among the world’s top juniors can be attributed to the companies and individuals that that are supporting Junior cycling in this country,ÔÇØ said Ian Wilson, manager of the Toyota Supercycling Academy. ÔÇ£Having our top Juniors racing in Europe at the most important races in the world is another step in the right direction.ÔÇØ

Meintjes’ Toyota Supercycling Academy teammates, Shaun-Nick Bester, Hendrik Kruger, Jonathan van Gesselleen, Stuart Strachan and Elizabeth Samson have been part of a larger South African contingent campaigning in Europe over the past few weeks in a combined initiative by local clubs and Cycling South Africa.

ÔÇ£We’ve got some great young road cycling talent in this country and it’s proudly being showcased by our Juniors in Europe. It’s all part of a plan to help create successors to current star riders like Robert Hunter,ÔÇØ added Wilson.