South African Louis Meintjes, second in the Under 23 World Championship last year, wants to win – nothing else. Team MTN-Qhubeka will field him in a series of races this year to allow him to develop into a leader.
"I don't want to just be a domestique, not that there's anything wrong with it," Meintjes told Cycling Weekly. "It's nice to set goals and try to achieve things. That's the fun in cycling for me. If it's not there then I can go and do something else."
At the 2013 Worlds in Florence, the 22-year-old made a group of favourites with two laps remaining and on the last lap, put in a solo attack to catch the lone leader. He failed to catch Matej Mohoric but finished three seconds back for a silver medal. GB's Yates twins, Adam and Simon placed in the group behind at 13 seconds.
Ahead of the Tour de Langkawi yesterday morning in Malaysia, Meintjes adjusted the foam inserts to fit around a bump on his forehead. When 16, he wrestled on the lawn with another boy at school, a stray iron shot put ball landed and rolled into his head.
Louis, pronounced Loo-ee, joined South Africa's MTN when the team became a second division professional team for the 2013 season. He said that General Manager Doug Ryder felt obliged to sign him as he was the country's best cyclist. Slovenian Mohoric, instead, turned professional this year with first division team Cannondale.
"It's perfect to be in MTN with the form that I have. If I want to a first division team I'd have to sit there for two years whereas with MTN I already have the opportunity to lead the team in some races," Meintjes explained.
"It's important to learn how to race a race to win other than just to sit in and support someone. If you do WorldTour races the whole time you are pretty much just going to be filling the pack. I have the opportunity to do many smaller races, to be in the leader's position and under pressure to defend a GC position. It's important."
Meintjes races the Tour de Langkawi for the next nine days. The Tour of Austria, where Sky took neo-pros Ian Boswell and Joe Dombrowski last year to lead, stands out on his calendar this season. He has time to improve. Impressed with the Worlds, Ryder extended his contract by one year.
"My goal is to win races. I want to keep on improving and to say at the end of every year that I still want to be a cyclist. That it is still worth my time doing. I want to do something that's worth doing," he said.
"I don't want to become just an average rider. I want to aim to be the best otherwise I'll do something else where I can be the best."
African team MTN-Qhubeka came away with 15 wins in 2013, including Milan-San Remo. More success is planned for 2014
South African-based team aiming for Grand Tour entry by 2014; already invited to Tours of Qatar and Oman for 2013
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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