Meintjes withdraws from Giro through illness

South Africa's Louis Meintjes rejoined Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka this season from UAE Team Emirates. AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider Louis Meintjes has withdrawn from the Giro d'Italia ahead of Stage 17 due to illness.

The 26-year-old South African called time on the Italian grand tour because he had been struggling with flu-like symptoms in recent days, which saw him slip down to 46th in the General Classification.

"Unfortunately, Louis has come down with what seems to be a viral upper respiratory infection. He has systemic symptoms including fever which preclude him from participating further in the Giro for fear of dangerous complications," explained Dr Adrian Rotunno.

Meintjes, who usually rides among the strongest climbers but has found himself 1hr 18' 20" down on British race leader Simon Yates (MItchelton-Scott), will return home where he will focus on recovery and finding the form which has so far eluded him on his return to Africa's Team.

"It's obviously really disappointing to have to stop the Giro d'Italia in the final week but my body just doesn't want to cooperate," he said.

"I felt my condition was gradually improving during the race and I was looking forward to playing a role at the three upcoming mountain stages but it is just not possible. The team is riding well, Ben (O'Connor) has been very impressive so I know the team will finish the Giro strongly. I will do everything I can to get healthy and come back stronger," Meintjes added.

Following Meintjes' withdrawal, and the earlier exit of Spaniard Igor Anton, Africa's Team are left with six members for the race which concludes in Rome on Sunday.

Australian Ben O'Connor, who currently occupies 12th position on the overall standings, is the highest-placed rider for the team and he will be supported by Ben King (USA), the South African trio of Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Venter and Ryan Gibbons as well as Natnael Berhane from Eritrea.