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With a great attack on the penultimate climb, Meintjes dropped the rest in the final stage of Settimana Coppi e Bartali and he held on to win the stage solo and take the overall victory with a 2-second advantage over Swift

Photo: Muscat Municipality/Paumer/B.Bade

COPPI E BARTALI

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DAMIANO CUNEGO

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DAVIDE REBELLIN

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LOUIS MEINTJES

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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29.03.2015 @ 20:24 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) took the biggest victory of his short career when he turned the Settimana Coppi e Bartali on its head on the hilly final stage of the race. With a big attack on the penultimate climb, he distanced his rivals and held on to take a solo victory and the overall win with a small 2-second advantage over previous leader Ben Swift (Sky).

 

When he finished second at the 2013 U23 World Championships, Louis Meintjes indicated that he is destined for a great future and last year he confirmed his potential when he finished in the top 10 in the Giro del Trentino and got close to a stage win in the Vuelta a Espana. Earlier this year he finished in the top 5 in the Tour of Oman and so it was only a question of time before he would take his first big win in Europe.

 

Today was the day for the young South African who took a dominant solo win in the final stage of the Settimana Coppi e Bartali which was the hardest of the four-day race. In addition to the stage win, he took the overall victory as he managed to distance previous leader Ben Swift by enough to move into the lead with a tiny two-second advantage.

 

Meintjes made his move on the penultimate climb with 20km to go when he attacked with Davide Rebellin (CCC) and Damiano Cunego (Nippo-Vini Fantini). The trio was joined by Freddy Montana (Movistar CT) before the South African attacked again.

 

This time no one was able to respond and he crested the summit as the lone chaser behind early escapee Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil). He quickly passed the lone Slovenian but saw his three chasers get closer as they reduced the gap to 15 seconds.

 

Further back, race leader Ben Swift found himself in a small group with teammate Sergio Henao and they had already lost more than a minute. Despite hard work from Henao, they never got much closer to an incredible Meintjes who even managed to distance his nearest chasers.

 

At the bottom of the final 3km climb to the finish, Meintjes was still around 50 seconds ahead of the Swift group which had caught the chasing trio. With a great ride, he managed to increase his advantage and when Cunego, Rebellin and Swift crossed the line in that order, they had lost 1.12 to the South African.

 

This was enough for Meintjes to take the overall win by 2 seconds while Matija Kvasina (Febermayr) finished third, 44 seconds further adrift. Meintjes was of course also the best young rider while Swift won the points competition. Roglic took the mountains jersey while Team Sky was clearly the best team with a 17-minute advantage over Bardiani.

 

The Italian racing calendar now takes a big break while the attention turns to the classics in Northern Europe. The next big race in the country is the Giro del Trentino which starts on April 21.

 

The hardest stage

After yesterday’s flat stage, the GC riders were expected to be back in action in the final stage which brought the riders over 152.6km from Pavullo to Roccapelago. After a descending first part, the riders hit the hilly terrain and would tackle three categorized climbs along the way. The final of those summited 18.1km from the finish and then a short descent led to the final 3.5km which were all uphill.

 

Francesco Chicchi (Androni), Miguel Angel Rubiano (Colombia) and Nicolas Pietrula (Dukla Praha) were the non-starters when the peloton took off under a beautiful sunny sky. They got the race off to  a very fast start with lots of attacks.

 

The break is formed

The first promising move was made by Dylan Girdlestone (Drapac) but it was back together at the 10km mark. After 20km of fast racing, Timothy Roe (Drapac), Nico Brüngger (Roth-Skoda), Felix Grosschartner (Team Felbermayr) and Antonino Parrinello (D'Amico - Bottecchia) got a gap but they were also brought back.

 

At the 25km mark, Primoz Roglic (Adria Mobil) attacked and he was joined by Sam Spokes (Drapac) to form a strong duo. The peloton slowed down to allow them to get clear and at the 50km mark, they were 2.45 ahead.

 

Movistar and Italy chase

Roglic led Spokes over the top of the first climb while Nicola Gaffurini (MG.Kvis) was first from the peloton 3 minutes later. In the feed zone at the halfway point, the gap was still 3.26 and it even reached 3.40 a little later.

 

Trefor were doing the work in the peloton before Movistar CT and Italy took over. They increased the pace and with 69km to go, they had reduced the gap to 2.50.

 

Roglic drops Spokes

Movistar and Italy worked hard to bring the gap down to 2.135 as they started the second climb which was short but very steep. That ascent was too hard for Spokes who was distanced by Roglic.

 

The elimination had now started and Gaffutini and Manuel Belletti (Southeast) were among the riders to lose contact. Søren Kragh Andersen (Trefor) was also distanced while Spokes was brought back.

 

Sky take control

Roglic was first at the top of the climb while Sky had now taken over the pace-setting. Sergio Henao, Kanstantsin Siutsou and Ben Swift from the British team were next just 1.05 later.

 

The peloton was now down to just 30 riders while Roglic did an amazing job to increase his advantage to 1.55 with 35km to go. The slower pace allowed 20 riders to rejoin the peloton which was 2.10 behind with 28km to go.

 

Meintjes makes his move

At the start of the third climb, the gap was 2.50 but now the action really started. The peloton split to pieces before Rebellin, Cunego and Meintjes took off. Bongiorno and Kvasina had joined forces a little further back while Swift had been distanced.

 

With 20km to go, the chase trio had been joined by Freddy Montana (Movistar) and they were now 1.33 behind Roglic. Kvasina was at 2.15 while Bongiorno, Swift, Henao, Franco Pellizotti (Androni) and Antonio Santoro (MG.Kvis) were at 2.26.

 

Meintjes passes Roglic

Meintjes managed to distance his companions while Kvasina was caught by the next group which had dropped Santoro. The South African made it up to the leader when the chasers were 22 seconds behind and Swift at 1.15.

 

Meintjes dropped Roglic who was passed by the three chasers. They got to within 15 seconds but then they again started to lose ground. As they approached the final climb, the gaps were 35 and 58 seconds respectively.

 

Meintjes increases his advantage

Meintjes started the final climb with advantages of 43 and 57 seconds and the elimination started immediately. Pellizotti was the first to get dropped from the Swift group before Kvasina and Bongiorno bridged to the Cunego group.

 

Meintjes was now one minute ahead while Henao paced Swift back to the chasers. With 1km to go, however, the South African had 1.20 and even though he lost a bit in the final kilometres, he held on to win the stage 1.12 ahead of Cunego, Rebellin and Swift

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