Meintjes aiming to put 'challenging year' behind him at La Vuelta

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

South Africa's Louis Meintjes has been chosen to spearhead Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka's charge at La Vuelta a España, the final grand tour of the cycling season, which gets underway on Saturday, 25 August.

The 26-year-old climber will be the team's hope for a top 10 placing on the general classification for the three-week tour which will cover 3254km over the 21 stages, before reaching the finish in Madrid, on 16 September. Meintjes, who rejoined Africa's Team this year but has struggled for top form is confident that the chosen eight-man squad will do well in Spain.

"I am looking forward to this year's Vuelta ... It's been a challenging year for the team and for me personally too, but we have worked hard to prepare well and build up nicely," said Meintjes in a team press release confirming their La Vuelta lineup.

Meintjes was forced to retire from the Giro d'Italia through illness and then spared the Tour de France, but has been able to build up a good rapport Eritrean national champion Merhawi Kudus and Spaniard Igor Anton ahead of what will be his fifth straight La Vuelta (two initially with the then-MTN-Qhubeka then one each with Lampre-Merida and UAE Team Emirates).

The trio raced the recent Vuelta a Burgos together and showed their ability to challenge for stage victories on the most difficult of days. Be that as it may, they will hope to come into their own in the tough final week of the tour which will include a 'queen' stage, stage 20, which will take place in his home European base of Andorra.

"At Vuelta a Burgos I think we definitely showed that we were on the right track as the entire team was riding really well. With the same team as in Burgos, now heading to La Vuelta, we have some positive momentum going into the race. Certainly, three weeks of racing is a different kind of beast but the goal for me is to be consistent throughout, take advantage when I am feeling good and try to achieve the best GC result possible," concluded Meintjes.

To maximise their chances throughout the three weeks, South African sprinter Ryan Gibbons has also been chosen. The 24-year will also be starting his second grand tour of the season, and will have free reign on the limited sprint stages of this year's La Vuelta.

Briton Steve Cummings will arguably be the most-watched Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka rider, not least because he has also had a quiet year after two seasons littered with well-timed go-for-broke victories. The 37-year-old would also not have been happy about being snubbed for the Tour de France and will thus want to make his third trip around a successful one.

The balance of Africa's Team will be made up of further experience in Ben King (USA) and Johann van Zyl (South Africa) as well as Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (24), the Eritrean who will make his grand debut following an impressive first season as a professional which has included winning the African road race title.