The 14th stage of the La Vuelta a Espana would go on to be the best so far for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung.
While Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) would win the stage ahead of Olivier Zaugg (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar), it was the attacking style of the Team MTN-Qhubeka riders and the talent of Louis Meintjes that had many on the edge of their seats.
Initially a 23 rider break would go clear after 50km’s of racing. In the move we had Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Venter and Louis Meintjes all present, giving us the numerical advantage over all the other teams. Venter contributed heavily to the early pace making ensuring the break would get a sizable gap as quickly as possible.
As the race hit the 2nd categorised climb of the day, the cat 1 Puerto de san Glorio, Luis Leon Sanchez and David Arroyo (Caja Rural) attacked the lead group. Janse van Rensburg rode across the 30” gap to the Spanish teammates while the break behind splintered.
Eventually it all came back together over the top of the climb and 13 riders were left, including Meintjes. Omega Pharma Quickstep had started chasing from the peloton and brought the gap down to 3 minutes but a cohesive effort by Meintjies and company saw the gap grow back up to 6 minutes over the final 50km’s.
The final 8km’s went up the category 1 La Camperona Valle de Sabero, taking in the steepest gradient in the history of the La Vuelta. Meintjes was the first real aggressor on the climb by setting a tempo that reduced the group 7. It was every man for himself though once the final 3km’s were reached at the 18% gradient. Hesjedal left it late and reeled in Zaugg before the line while Meintjes fought valiantly to cross the line in a superb 5th place.
Rider – Louis Meintjes
Today was a really good day, my legs felt really good. The final climb was really steep, I saw so many sign boards and thought we had to be really close to finish at one stage until I saw the 1 km to go banner in the distance still (laughs). I am really happy with my result but I must say both Jacques and Jaco were just fantastic today. It was a good day for the team.
Team Principal – Douglas Ryder
The level of racing is super high in a Grand Tour and today’s ride by Louis shows his incredible talent and race maturity beyond his young years and experience. But the team performance was picture perfect, the commitment to get 3 riders in the breakaway to support 1 result is what makes this team so special. Louis finished off great work from Jacques and Jaco and the rest of the team.
Tomorrows Stage Profile Overview