The South African star road cyclist made a less than ideal start to his maiden Giro but has been making inroads since the start of the race. He had been inside the top-50 on the General Classification but decided to abandon the race with five stages left following the individual time trial on Tuesday due to ‘flu-like symptoms in recent days’.
“Louis has come down with what seems to be a viral upper respiratory infection,” said team doctor Adrian Rotunno. “He has systemic symptoms including fever which preclude him from participating further for fear of dangerous complications.”
Meintjes, who finished eighth in the last two editions of the Tour de France, returned to Africa’s premier team at the end of last season. Dimension Data said he came back home to focus on his recovery while he would also be looking to gain some lost form over the next few months.
“It’s obviously really disappointing to have to stop in the final week but my body just doesn’t want to cooperate,” Meintjes said. “I felt my condition was gradually improving during the race and I was looking forward to playing a role at the three upcoming mountain stages. But it is just not possible.”
Meintjes is the second member of the team to withdraw from the race following the earlier exit of Igor Anton. Australian Ben O’Connor, who is in 12th position on the general classification, has been the form rider for the team and will be supported by Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Venter, Ryan Gibbons, Ben King and Natnael Berhane.
“The team is riding well, Ben (O’Connor) has been very impressive so I know the team will finish the Giro strongly,” Meintjes said.
Speaking at a Laureus for Good breakfast yesterday, Dimension Data’s head of performance sport and medical doctor Carol Austin said they were looking to get Meintjes back on track.
“We had planned for a better GC result for him (Meintjes) but it hasn’t worked out that way so it is a disappointment,” Austin said. “We’ve got a good understanding of where he is and what needs to be done. The learnings from the mistakes can really inform an improvement for the future.”
Dimension Data had set its sights on elevating Meintjes to the Tour winner by 2020 with the team targeting the Giro to give him the experience to make the step-up; “We have the data that provides us with the insights to understand what has happened and what we need to change up going into the future.”