Britain’s Steve Cummings soloed to victory on stage 14 of the Tour de France, to ensure his African-sponsored team, MTN-Qhubeka, celebrated Mandela Day in perfect style.
Cummings’ maiden Tour stage win – and second in a Grand Tour, after winning at the Vuelta in 2012 – was also his team’s first and arrived courtesy of a late counter-attack from the break, catching and passing leaders Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) to claim victory.
And Cummings was not the only Brit celebrating, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) extending his lead at the top of the general classification after responding well to a flurry of attacks by Nairo Quintana (Movistar), with the Colombian finishing closest to Froome on the stage at one second behind.
Earlier, the break had been instigated after an aggressive start by green jersey Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), with the Slovakian eventually going clear in pursuit of more intermediate sprint points.
Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) was among the 23 riders to join him up the road, as were Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin).
Sagan had eyes only on the sprint, however, and after he won there at 78.5km – with the front group breaking up – a new, large front group formed with Cummings, in an orange helmet to mark Mandela Day, among them.
Pinot, who had earlier suffered a crash which saw team-mate Steve Morabito abandon, was involved, as was Bardet and Sagan and stage 13 winner Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing).
Uran and Brit Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) were also there, while FDJ boasted strength in numbers thanks to two of Pinot’s team-mates making the split.
If Sagan and van Avermaet hoped to be dragged to the finish line to reignite their rivalry of the previous day, they were to be disappointed as plenty of riders attacked at the front.
Michal Golas (Etixx-QuickStep) was first to go, with Kristijan Koren (Cannondale-Garmin) bridging across, but it was Bardet and Pinot’s attack which looked set to prove stage-winning.
Yates attempted to bridge, but could not match Bardet’s second acceleration as the two challenged, with the two Frenchmen working together to reach the finish.
Cummings had other ideas, however, making up ground after the climb and gliding straight past them on the flat section after the flamme rouge.
With a strong time-trialling pedigree, the Liverpool-born ace’s speed was far too much for the Frenchmen, leaving him to celebrate an emotional victory.
Further back, Quintana did the attacking in the GC group – briefly distancing Froome, and being joined by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Nibali’s assault did not last, however, as the pursuing group despatched of him – before only Froome could tail the Colombian, and even gained a second at the finish line.
Quintana, in the white jersey, moved up to second however as both men gained time on their rivals.
With a Brit riding for an African team winning the stage, and a Kenyan-born Brit extending his yellow jersey lead, it was a Mandela Day to remember for African fans and not too shabby a day for British fans either.
Tour de France 2015: stage 14 – result
1) Steve Cummings (GBR) – MTN-Qhubeka – 4.23.43hrs
2) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ +2”
3) Romain Bardet (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +3”
4) Rigoberto Uran (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep +20”
5) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff-Saxo +29”
6) Cyril Gautier (FRA) – Europcar +32”
7) Ruben Plaza (ESP) – Lampre-Merida – ST
8) Bob Jungels (LUX) – Trek Factory Racing
9) Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP) – Movistar
10) Simon Yates (GBR) – Orica-GreenEDGE +33”
1) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky – 56.02.19hrs
2) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar +3.10
3) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +3.32
4) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +4.02
5) Alberto Contador (ESP) – Tinkoff-Saxo +4.23
6) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky +4.54
7) Robert Gesink (NED) – LottoNL-Jumbo +6.23
8) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +8.17
9) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – Lotto-Soudal +8.23
10) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Trek Factory Racing +8.53