'Us Africans love to run': Louis Meintjes evokes memories of Chris Froome with Tour de France jog

The South African was well-placed for a good stage result before a mechanical left him in his highest gear

Louis Meintjes
(Image credit: Getty)

It wasn't quite as dramatic as Mont Ventoux, but Louis Meintjes evoked memories of Chris Froome on stage six of the Tour de France when he was forced to run the final 60 metres to cross the line at Planche des Belles Filles.

The Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux rider looked like he was on course for a high-placing on the race's first summit finish, but the gravel sector that the final one kilometre was ridden on had other ideas.

A piece of loose rock flicked up off the road and tangled itself in the rear derailleur, prompting Meintjes' electronic gears to assume that he had crashed. It thus disconnected from the cage to minimise danger and prevented any further shifting.

With the gradients in excess of 20 percent, 30-year-old Meintjes had no other choice but to climb off his bike and run with it, while up to 10 other riders passed him. He eventually finished 51 seconds behind stage winner Tadej Pogačar. 

Louis Meintjes

(Image credit: Getty)

"Yeah, us Africans, we love to run!" Meintjes chuckled when the comparison with the Kenyan-born Froome was brought up. "I ran, in the end, 50 metres, maybe even 60 metres. It was hard as I was almost losing a shoe too.

"I think it must have been just a bit too bouncy, or some gravel got stuck in the rear derailleur and it went into the crash mode setting. Already, at that moment, you needed special gears to go up as it's that steep.

"Once it started shifting, I couldn't do much. I was close enough [to the line] so either fixing it or running it [were his only options]. It was basically just going to be the same [time] as I'm not a mechanic so maybe it was quicker to run."

The combination of the punishing gradients and the uneven terrain thwarted Meintjes, but he was reluctant to suggest that the inclusion of gravel was not worthy in the Tour.

"There are a lot of unnecessary things in my opinion: flat stages, bunch sprints," he laughed. "So I guess this [the gravel] is just part of racing. Today wasn't so bad actually. I mean, it's a bit of gravel at the end of the race and it makes the race a bit more special. If I had to complain it would be more about putting cobbles in the race."

Meintjes is more than six minutes behind race leader Pogačar, and though he was able to see the funny side in his misfortune, he was also left cursing what could have been.

He continued: "My memories [of the climb] were worse. I had super good legs today and it's really disappointing it didn't happen in the final. It's really quite steep and you can't stand up or the tyres start sliding.

"At one stage I was considering trying something because I could see a lot of guys were struggling. Not [Primož] Roglič or the other guys, but the other guys who are real contenders for the top-10. Today could have been a good day to put time into them."

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