Image credit: MTN-Qhubeka

Unfortunately the South African national champion fell ill the night before the stage and abandoned shortly after racing got underway. But Meintjes’ victory earned him the yellow jersey as he started the day second overall.

With the stage only covering a distance of 69.4 kilometres, it was always going to be a fast one. Team South Africa took it upon themselves to start the attacking as Meintjes explains.

“Paul van Zweel got away and he is a very strong rider and we saw him as a threat. The team did an amazing job keeping the attack under control. Johann van Zyl and Songezo Jim spent most of the day on the front,” Meintjes said.

Along with Adrien Niyonshuti, the team nullified all attacks with 9 kilometres to go as the reduced peloton hit the day’s final climb to the finish. “They brought Paul back at this stage and all I had to do was fight on the last climb. Luckily I could win the sprint,” a delighted Meintjes said.

With Thomson’s exit, the team is left with four riders in the race. Meintjes says the racing will be handled on a “day to day basis”.

“It’s definitely a loss not having Jay in the team. He is a very strong rider but I still think the team is very strong and it’s not impossible for us to win,” Meintjes concluded.

Team Principal, Douglas Ryder, commented on the success the team is enjoying in the Rwandan tour. “We came to the race as it’s a special occasion for Africa’s team to race on the African continent. We sent a strong team to support Adrien’s return in his home country and to spend time with our friends at MTN Rwanda. Today’s victory puts us joint second in terms of UCI wins for Pro Continental teams. We can only be delighted with the job the team is doing.”

The race continues on Thursday as it travels from Musanze to Muhanga over 128 kilometres.