Team South Africa’s road cycling manager/coach Douglas Ryder has only praise for the performances of his two riders at Saturday’s individual men’s road race at Fort Copacabana.
Ryder looked on as Louis Meintjes rode to an impressive seventh spot, 22sec off the pace while ‘veteran’ Daryl Impey also impressed with a solid 28th spot against the world’s top road exponents.
‘People just need to understand how good a performance this was by our guys out there,’ he said.
‘Two of our guys, in the top 30… ‘ his voice tailed off as he shook his head in almost disbelief. ‘I also think it needs to be said that for the first time in ages our two best riders were selected to ride here.
‘And coming off the back of a hard Tour de France two weeks ago it was just amazing.’
As for Meintjes mixing it with the best once again after ending eighth at the TDF?
More shaking of the head. ‘This little guy is incredible, something very special and look, he’s only 24, just 24. He hasn’t approached his peak form and has got at least another two Olympics in him.’
It’s definitely the most impressive display from a South African road racer at the Olympics. ‘I can’t think of anyone better. I finished 61st 20 years back, Robbie [Hunter] has never finished an Olympic road race. No, this has got to be it!’
On the race itself and Ryder, whose day job is team principal at Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, was full of respect. ‘The pace just never slowed down. It was basically a tempo ride for almost 240km. A race like this is a totally different ball game. Unlike something like the Tour de France this is a National Federation race where the teams are all much smaller and they don’t have the luxury of big numbers so it’s all systems go.
‘As for our guys, well Daryl had a bike change early on after the cobbles where his chain ring got stuck and then he really had to chase hard to get back into the mix at a time where Great Britain were pushing hard.
‘As it turns out though it probably worked out for the best that Daryl was riding in support of Louis.’
Ryder also reflected on the performance by the world powers of cycling. ‘It just shows how tough this race was when you get none of Spain, Italy or Great Britain medalling.
‘Fabio Aru (Italy) was their best finisher at sixth, one ahead of Louis.’
Good news is that there’s more than just Meintjes in SA cycling’s mounting momentum. We’ve got lots of guys breaking through, like the two Janse van Rensburgs [Reinardt and Jacques), Jaco Venter, Johann van Zyl… there are many more out there.’
Source: South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.