Stephen Cummings pipped French duo Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot in the final 1.5 kms to win Stage 14. The MTH-Qhubeka rider announced his team on Nelson Mandela Day to take the win from the French. In more good news for British Cycling, Chris Froome managed to extend his lead in the General Classification following a strong finish.
Stage 14 was a 178.5 kms stage from Rodez to Mende. Classified as a medium mountain stage by the tour organizes, first 44 kms were on the hills before an 11-kilometre-long descent to a relatively flat portion of the stage. The intermediate sprint occurs in this flat patch, 78.5 kms into the stage. Around 42 kms from the finish is the ascent of a hilly finish with two Category 2 and a single category 1 climb. The last climb of the day ends 1.5 kms before the finish, which was a flat 1500 m cycle to the finish that ended on an airstrip.
The stage started with a bang. Just 5 kms into the stage a crash caused Steve Morabito to withdraw. 18 kms in, Peter Sagan decided to test himself and rode away in a breakaway that consisted of Andrew Talansky, Warren Barguil, which was joined by other riders to form a fairly large breakaway group of 24. Despite some of them breaking away from this group, they were caught. 4 would eventually fall off leaving a 20-man group.
The Intermediate sprint saw Sagan take maximum points, solidifying his grip on the Tour’s point’s classification. Soon back in the Peloton, Team Sky were at the front in full force trying to reduce the breakaway’s lead which peaked at 8’15”. When the climbing section started, Team FDJ were pacing the 20 man breakaway as Sky gradually ate down their time, behind some phenomenal work by Richie Porte. The pace set by the British Team was too much as riders started to peel off and conserve their energy for the upcoming stages.
The stage today had a special guest. President of France, François Hollande was riding in the Race director’s car (the red referee car with a number one on its side). This acted as an extra incentive for the French to win. 27 kms from the finish, Michal Golas of Etixx-Quick step soloed his way forward. He was joined by Cannondale Garmin’s Kristjian Koren 16 kms later. However, they were caught by the breakaway in the final climb of the day.
Romain Bardet accelerated from the group, splitting the 20-man breakaway for good. He was followed by Pinot as they looked to battle for the win. Unknown to them, Stephen Cummings of MTH-Qhubeka was on their tail following steadily. When the climb finished, he launched his attack to take the lead and held on for the African Team’s first victory. In addition, today was Nelson Mandela Day, and Cummings’ victory added a nice touch to MTH’s efforts towards showing its South African roots and dedicate it to one of the greatest people to have ever lived. Sagan would finish 5th, a great position for him as he is more or less winning his 4th consecutive green jersey.
As the Pelton began the climb, the Top 5 in the General Classification and Vincenzo Nibali (9th place currently) attacked. Froome managed to reel in Quintana as the others fell. In the final stretch, Froome accelerated ahead of Quintana to get a second or 2 on him and a good chunk of time on the others. Quintana finished 39 seconds ahead of Tejay van Garderen to leap frog him to 2nd overall. Tejay sits 3rd, 30 seconds ahead of Quintana’s teammate, Alejandro Valverde.
The General Classification Top 20
The Points Classification Top 20
Stage 15 is classified hilly. While it should not pose too much of an issue, there is a nasty category 2 climb before a flat road ahead to the finish. It might be the traditional sprinters’ last chance for a stage win before the finale on the Champs Élysées.