16.02.2018 - 32 years ago, in 1986, Greg Lemond won his first Tour de France, symbolically giving the start to the cycling’s “globalization”. From Europe, the cycling progressively spread over to America, Oceania, Asia and Africa, and changed accordingly.
Three years ago, the first African squad has entered the World Tour circuit: it was Team Dimension Data, now on the verge of returning to the Tour of the Alps (April 16th-20th) for the first time since accessing the closed circle of World cycling. In the recent seasons, the South African team brought several African athletes to the pro debut, claiming prestigious wins thanks to the experience of established international names such as Mark Cavendish, Stephen Cummings and Edvald Boasson Hagen.
The next goal of Dimension Data, led by Team Principal Douglas Ryder, is claiming their first Grand Tour, and they are pursuing it with a South African Louis Meintjes, now back to the team where he debuted among the pros after two seasons between Lampre-Merida and Team UAE Emirates. Overall eighth in the last two editions of the Tour de France, in 2018 Meintjes will focus on the Giro d’Italia, identifying the Tour of the Alps as the perfect springboard in view of the big goal of the season.
A strong climber with good skills as rouleur, Meintjes had already showed off in the G.S. Alto Garda race in the past. In fact, the South African rider conquered the youth jersey at the 2015 Giro del Trentino, finishing overall eighth with the Team MTN-Qhubeka – the previous naming of Team Dimension Data. Meintjes was in the spotlight in the stages finishing in Brentonico and Fierozzo, revealing the skills he later showed at the Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
Africa has never stepped on the final podium of Tour of the Alps and Giro d’Italia but Meintjes will try to make history, supported by a good climbing team, featuring Spaniard Igor Anton among others. Anton spoke about Meintjes’ ambitions: “Louis is a young athlete with three GT top-10 to his name already. As ambitious as the goal can be, Louis can achieve it.”
Meantime, another famous Africa-born rider (but competing under a different nationality) has just returned to the competitions in Spain, starting a setup route to the Giro d’Italia that is supposed to pass through the Tour of the Alps roads. From Africa to the conquest of the Alps: the big time could be coming.
Ph: Daniele Mosna