For Sea Otter Classic men’s stage race King of the Mountain winner Louis Meintjes (Simple Green/Bike Religion), the polka-dots were a case of being in the right place at the right time.
On the stage 2, the road stage, Meintjes escaped the field along with three others riders early on in the 68-mile stage that looped around a Fort Ord course.
“I went off the front because I felt good, I had a minute to make up.” Meintjes told podiuminsight. He was one minute and three seconds down on GC after finishing the first stage.
“The front guys are pretty strong so to ride away from them, while they are looking at you would be very hard so I thought maybe I can sneak off the front at the start and they’ll let it go and maybe get a minute back or something. It didn’t turn out and then the King of the Mountain was just there so that’s why I went for it.”
He solidified the overall KOM classification on the final day by sprinting to take two of the four KOMs at the top of the climb in the circuit race.
Sea Otter Classic was the third race on US soil for the 20-year old South African who started cycling when he was five years old. His goal for coming to America is two-fold, first to try and get noticed.
“I’m trying to go professional. I come to America because the races are ranked a bit higher than South Africa because if I achieve results, the guys in Europe don’t really care but if I come to America, the guys in Europe can recognize it. I’m only allowed to go to Europe for three months because of visa issues, I thought this year why not come to America and I have two months more international experience. That’s the reason why I came and Simple Green was willing to help me.” Meintjes said.
And secondly, to see first hand the racing in order to make a decision for next season. “Next year I can decide do I want to go back to Europe or do I want to come back to the US. And then for the extra experience because at the moment, there’s not much racing in South Africa. It’s better to come here to keep on racing for two months.”
He feels that his major strength as a rider is his time-trialing which he demonstrated by winning the under23 National South Africa TT Championship. “Because I’m small, I’m pretty good at climbing but time-trialing. I like time-trialing.”
Meintjes finished fourth at the Sea Otter Classic time trial, 15 seconds from the winner on borrowed equipment. “I had a timetrial bike and I had an helmet but the bike was actually ridiculously heavy.” he laughed. “With the climbing I think I could have been a little bit better but anyway, getting equipment is as much part of racing as training and preparing.”
He’s enjoyed his experience since arriving on April fifth. “America is a nice place. I’m really surprised by how friendly the Americans are, it’s one of the most warm welcomes I’ve received from a country. Everyone on the team is so willing to help, other people driving us to races, hosting us, it really helps.”
Meintjes will be racing at the SRAM Tour of the Gila before traveling to Europe to race for three months with the under23 Lotto-Belisol team where he hopes to race in at least four stage races.
“I’m pretty sure of starts because it’s quite a big team. They’ve got quite a big budget so although it’s based in Belgium, they’re going to send me to Spain and France, where there’s a little bit of climbing.”
And after that, well he hopes to make it to the top level of pro cycling. “As much as my capabilities will allow.” Meintjes concluded.