Despite elite South African rider Louis Meintjes struggling to hit top form at the Giro d’Italia, local team Dimension Data for Qhubeka believe there are multiple positives to have emerged from his campaign, which fizzled out due to illness on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately Louis has come down with what seems to be a viral upper respiratory infection,” team doctor Adrian Rotunno said ahead of the 17th stage of the three-week Grand Tour race.
“He has systematic symptoms including fever which preclude him from participating further in the Giro for fear of dangerous complications.”
After consistently shining at major international races in recent years – finishing among the top 10 at the Tour de France, the Vuelta a’Espana and the Rio Olympics – Meintjes battled to make his presence felt in the general classification (GC) on his Giro debut. He was in 46th place overall when he pulled out.
“It’s obviously really disappointing to have to stop the Giro d’Italia 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.”
Australian rider Ben O’Connor was lying 12th in the GC, and the team had climbed into the top 10 overall, and Dimension Data were satisfied with their performance at the Giro, with five stages remaining at the 101st edition of the top-flight race.
And with Meintjes having joined the local outfit this year from former team UAE Emirates, they remained confident of his ability.
The former Under-23 World Championships silver medallist was set to return home in order to recover, in the build-up to the Tour de France in July.
“I think we’ve got a good understanding of where he is and what needs to be done,” Carol Austin, head of sport and performance for the SA-registered World Tour team, said during a Laureus function at Mercedes-Benz in Sandton on Wednesday.
“It is a learning process, and in life and in business you don’t always get it right.
“Sometimes learning from mistakes that are made can really inform and improve you into the future.
“So I think we’re fortunate that we have the data which provides us with insights to really understand what has happened and what we need to change going forward.”