Cyclingnews caught up with national U23 road champion Louis Meintjes during a well deserved break back home in South Africa. The young MTN-Qhubeka star grabbed the world’s attention when he took silver in the world championships earlier this year.

1. What was it like lining up as national U23 champion at the UCI road world champs? Did it give you the added confidence you needed?

L: Yes, winning any race gives you extra confidence and it’s always nice being the national champion at worlds.

2. With just three riders in the South African team, did you believe that you had a realistic shot at the podium when so many countries field larger teams?

L: It is always possible; it just makes it a bit harder and gives you a bit less control about how things are going to turn out.

3. What was your strategy going into the race?

L: The strategy was for me to wait for the last two laps and for my two teammates to help control the race up until then and make sure no dangerous moves got away.

4. Did everything go according to plan on race day and do you consider your silver medal a “win”?

L: Yes, I think we can say it went according to plan. I think and feel silver is a good result. It was an amazing day!

5. As a climber, how did the course layout work for or against you?

L: It was a really good course for me. It was definitely more for a climbing specialist. I’d had a look at the course a few weeks earlier and I really liked it, which really helped my confidence going into the race.

6. Did the fact that the finish was at the Firenze Mandela Forum provide added inspiration for you and your South African teammates?

L: It was an added bonus. They’ve named the sports stadium in honour of Nelson Mandela and it was a great venue for the race to finish at.

7. This is the third time that you’ve competed in the world championships. What were your previous two results and has competing at ProConti level this season made a dramatic difference to your performance?

L: In my first two road world championships I didn’t get any noteworthy results but I really learned a lot. I’m sure if I didn’t have that experience I wouldn’t have been able to get the result this year. Being ProConti definitely helped. I have been racing longer distances and at a higher level than most of the other U23 riders so I definitely think it was to my advantage.

8. How does racing internationally for Africa’s first ProConti team compare with racing for the U23 Lotto-Belisol team (in terms of the standard of racing, the pressure, opportunities etc)?

L: Firstly it’s a lot more fun and easier as there isn’t the big culture and language barrier. The races are longer and harder and the pressure is more but you get used to it pretty quickly and it becomes the new norm.

9. In the aftermath of your silver medal, have you been approached by any of the big international teams? How has it changed your career plans, if at all?

L: Yes there was some interest but I really like MTN-Qhubeka and can see myself growing with the team.

10. You come from the same Toyota Cycle Lab Academy background as Chris Froome and have previously cited him as a role model. What is it about his riding style or the way he approaches his racing that inspires you?

L: I just like the type of person he is. And it was really easy for me to relate to him as he started in the same place as me and I could see how he progressed and moved through the ranks to where he is now. It showed me there is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to become a professional.

11. Are you a good or bad loser?

L: Cycling is different to other sports because when you don’t win a race it’s not always seen as a loss. When I am in a position to win a race and then don’t, I try to learn from the experience.

12. What do you consider your top three results this season?

L: Number one was my world’s silver medal. Number two was finishing the Giro di Lombardia as the youngest rider in the race and number three was being national U23 champion.

13. What was the worst moment on your bike this season?

L: Definitely crashing out of Tour of Utah. I had good form and it was really a race that suited me. So mentally it was hard losing that opportunity.

14. Where are you based and how has your life changed with living in Europe?

L: Our team is based in Lucca, Italy. I really enjoy experiencing and learning the Italian culture and way of life. Life hasn’t changed all that much. I just miss being able to have a dog.

15. How are you spending your break back home?

L: Doing as little as possible. Spending time with family and friends and trying to catch up on some braais.

16. Complete this sentence: When I’m not cycling, I…

L: … try to switch off and recover. I enjoy reading.

17. What’s your favourite comfort food?

L: Italian ice cream is just amazing.

18. When and where does the team start training again for next season?

L: Every rider is on a different programme but I have gotten some rest now and will start training again in mid-November for Tour of Rwanda. The team also has a training camp in preparation for next season.

19. Can you remember your very first day on a bicycle?

L: Unfortunately I can’t. I’ve had many great memories since then though.

20. What are some of your personal goals and ambitions for the future?

L: Next big goal is to start a Grand Tour and then my second goal is to finish a Grand Tour!

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Coetzee Gouws
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