More than 5.000 meters of climbing within 138 kilometers meant to be the grueling menu for the riders at La Vuelta today. The peloton had to tackle no less than six major climbs on a day that reshuffled the general classification. Our young South African Louis Meintjes kept it cool and rode strong all day. At the end he came home in 17th, just 4.19 minutes short of stage winner Mikel Landa (Astana). Louis sits now 10th in the GC.
The race started fast with Darwin Atapuma (BMC) attacking from the gun. Natnael Berhane tried to bridge across, but couldn’t quite match the speed when more riders went up the road. Eventually 19 riders moved clear with Landa among them.
Back in the peloton it was Sky who lead the chase, after Chris Froome had taken a tumble in the early part of the race. Yet, they weren’t to be the ones to watch out for in the end. The reigning Tour de France winner was dropped with the finale still to come.
With about 40 kilometers to go the break was down to 5 riders. 2 minutes behind them a group with outgoing race leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) tried to put time into Froome. Being surrounded by the likes of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (Astana), Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) this group was the right one for Louis. He managed to stay in there and cover all attacks until the race reached the final climb. With 8,7 kilometers in length and a 12 percent maximum gradient this was the one to decide the stage.
At the front Landa attacked his breakaway companions and moved on to win the stage ahead of Aru. The Italian rode clear from Rodriguez and the other GC contenders in the last 5 kilometers, when the competition was blown into pieces. He took over the GC lead and sits now in front of Rodriguez and Dumoulin.
Behind them Louis rode at his pace with the favorites in sight. He now ranks 10th with another few tough days to come.
Louis Meintjes – Rider
It was a pretty epic stage. Luckily it was mostly dry. I had a bit of a misfortune on the first climb with my chain getting stuck. Johann and Jaco did an awesome job to keep me in the race. It was just a big day and I managed to stay with the front guys. I gave it everything up the last climb, but it was just 2 kilometers too long.