The first mountain stage of the Criterium du Dauphine would be another successful race for MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung with Louis Meintjes and Daniel Teklehaimanot both making the headlines. Louis would climb his way to 6th place at the summit finish while Daniel broke away to extend his lead in the KOM competition.
With the race heading into the Alps today, there was always going to be a lot of climbing and in fact, riders would take on over 4000m of climbing in the 161km stage. With 5 categorised climbs on route today, it was important for Daniel to get into the break to protect his polka dot jersey. Subsequently, Daniel attacked after just 4km of racing, taking 6 other riders with him to form the break of the day.
Daniel would pick up 8 more points over the first 3 climbs before the Sky led peloton decided to reel in the escapees on the penultimate climb of the stage. With Daniel’s job for the day done, attention turned to the stage finish and Louis was showing his talent once again as he was part of the select 30 rider peloton that went over the penultimate climb of the day together.
Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) would attack meters before the actual summit and with still 21km to go to the finish. The Frenchman then put in a daredevil descent to open his gap up to 1’25” before the final 6km climb to the line started. Team Sky continued to set the pace on the descent and the run in to the final climb, while Louis was consistently sitting around 10th wheel at this point.
The British team then really turned in the screws as we got onto the final climb proper and a number of riders were put into difficulty. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) were just two of the riders who could not sustain the pace, yet Louis was still looking composed at the head of the race. Chris Froome (Team Sky) eventually attacked with 2km to go and Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) was first to respond. Behind them the race was now in pieces.
Bardet was able to maintain most of the advantage he started the final climb with and took a good win, 36 seconds ahead of Van Garderen with Froome crossing the line 4 seconds later in 3rd. With Benat Intauxsti (Movistar) crossing the line alone in 4th, Adam Yates (Orica-Greenedge) and Louis Meintjes were the next two riders home, both finishing 50 seconds after the stage victor. A remarkable performance by our 23 year old South African.
Louis Meintjes – Rider
The legs felt good again. The team was absolutely amazing today, we have a really good vibe going in the team and everyone is just supporting everyone else, it is just an amazing team we have here. Today was also one of the stages we re-conned last week at our training camp so I am happy with how things went today.
Jens Zemke – Head of Performance
That was an incredible result by this young man, Louis, and also for our team. It shows that we are doing things the right way and reaching a really good level. Louis showed his ambition today and after our team re-conned this stage last week, we knew how tough it would be. To defend the climbers jersey with Daniel is another incredible performance. We are really proud of our riders.