The final spring classic of the year would be one to remember for Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung with Louis Meintjes delighting us all with a magnificent performance, finishing 11th on the day. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took the race win.
The 253km La Doyenne, the oldest classic of them all saw a thrilling race unfold with Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung right in the thick of the action. 8 early breakaway riders were caught with still 70km to go, blowing the race wide open. A number of attacks would then ensue with 3 riders, Esteban Chaves (Orica-Greenedge) and teammates Michele Scarponi and Tanel Kangert (Astana) eventually establishing a gap of 1’00”.
Our African team were in a good position as Louis still had Merhawi Kudus, Jacques Janse van Rensburg and Steve Cummings with him in the main bunch with just 40km to go. A big crash then decimated the peloton with a number of the favourites going down. Fortunately no Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung riders went down but Merhawi and Jacques were held up. Up the road though, the 3 leaders would later be caught with just 20km remaining.
While the rain came down, a huge acceleration on the races penultimate climb saw only the 13 strongest riders get over in the lead group. Louis was part of the favourites selection. On the final climb Daniel Moreno (Katusha) put in a dangerous attack and Louis was first to respond. Moreno was brought back at the summit leaving the select group to sprint it out over the final flat 300 meters. Julien Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) crossed the line 2nd, behind Valverde, with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 3rd. Louis crossed the line in a credible 11th position.
Louis Meintjes – Rider
I had pretty good legs and I was happy to have made it into the front group in the final. On the final climb my objective was really to just try and follow the best riders. Liege-Bastogne-Liege was one of my goal races this year so I am really glad that I was able to get some sort of a result today.
Jens Zemke – Head of Performance
What an amazing result for Louis and our team today. The big crash took out a lot of the favourites today and for once we can say that finally we had some fortune on our side but then again our boys were doing well to ride near the front. Louis was at his peak today and had some very good legs. He was even looking to attack on Le Redoute but he managed to keep his calm and composure, this is not easy for a young rider to do. He was then able to follow the attacks from the Katusha rider in the final km.
The team was also very good today. Steve was there the whole day and finished 26th. Merhawi and Jacques were both very good going deep into the race and finishing not long after the winners. For young boys in such a long race this is excellent. This is really a big, big step for our African team as it was our African riders who were performing with the best in the world. We are extremely happy with today’s performance.