By Mark Etheridge
He may have been unable to match his medal-winning feats of last year’s UCI Road World Championships but Louis Meintjies will look back on his year with pride.
Already crowned national road champion, the young Rustenburg rider gave notice of things to come with an accomplished performance for Team MTN Qhubeka at the Vuelta a Espana before this week’s Road World Champs, also in Spain.
On Friday he had to settle for 28th spot in the men’s Under-23 road race but did more than his fair share of grind and lead the 182-kilometre race at one stage, two laps out from home after some good work from team-mates Jayde Julius and Kevin Patten to get him into a position.
Norway’s Sven Erik Bystrom took gold in 4hr 32min 39sec from Aussie Caleb Ewan (yet another medallist from Down Under at these championships), with the victory margin being seven seconds.
Meintjies was also credited with the same time as the silver and bronze medallists.
‘Last race of the season done. It was fun to liven things up a bit. Now time for A LOT of rest,’ was Meintjies initial comment after the gruelling 10-lap grind
SA team-mate Willem Smit was also in the thick of things, going clear with four laps to go before being hunted down. He would go on to finish 20:47 off the pace.
Saturday sees the elite women’s road race with Ashleigh Pasio, South Africa’s main hope, especially after her bronze medal from the road race at Commonwealth Games in Scotland earlier this year.
Meanwhile our top finisher in the junior women’s race, Cathy Colyn, was initially disappointed with her 69th place finish but has taken hope going forward after her 72.8km event.
‘I got caught up in the crashes and tried to bridge the gap. I got it to 15sec and then saw that no-one was going with and I wasn’t able to bridge alone,’ Colyn told Road to Rio 2016.
‘I then rode with the bunch that fell off the main peloton. On the last lap I attacked up the steepest part of the last climb and managed to get a gap on the bunch and kept it until the bottom of the descent.
‘I was caught on the home run towards the finish and the sprinters then took over… I’m not really a sprinter so I struggled to compete against them in the sprint.
‘I felt good and also a disappointed, but then I’ve been doing road for only six months now so still learning.’