Stephen Cummings celebrated Nelson Mandela Day in style for his South African team MTN-Qhubeka by taking a historic first Tour de France stage victory.
Top 5: 1. Stephen Cummings 2. Thibaut Pinot, at 0.02 3. Romain Bardet, at 0.03 4. Rigoberto Uran, at 0.20 5. Peter Sagan, at 0.29 #TDF2015
— letourdata (@letourdata) July 18, 2015
Qhubeka became the first ever African team to take part in the Tour this year and Briton Cummings gave them a historic victory on the 178.5km 14th stage from Rodez to Mende — and that on the international day to honour Mandela.
And on a day in which Britain’s Davis Cup tennis team took a 2-1 lead over France, Briton Cummings stole a march on a pair of Frenchmen to win the stage as compatriot Chris Froome retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
The stage victory looked to have come down to a battle between Frenchmen as Romain Bardet attacked on the brutal final climb — 3km long at an average 10.1 percent gradient — ahead of the finish.
Thibaut Pinot emerged from the remainder of a 20-man breakaway group to chase down his countryman but once he caught Bardet, the two started playing cat-and-mouse in the final kilometre.
Cummings arrived like a freight train and blasted straight past the Frenchmen before taking off for the line. The Frenchman hesitated a second too long before deciding to chase and Cummings won by 2sec from Pinot, with Bardet another second further back.
Five minutes further down the climb, the peloton and overall favourites arrived, where hostilities were launched by Nairo Quintana.
Twice he accelerated clear with first reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali chasing him down. However, the second time only Froome could match the Colombian’s pace and the Britain even snatched a second off Quintana in the sprint to the line.
The Colombian did at least move up to second overall at 3min 10sec as Tejay Van Garderen had been dropped further down the climb and lost 40sec to sit third at 3min 32sec. Spaniards Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, as well as Nibali, all lost time to the lead pair as well. Valverde is fourth at 4min 02sec with Contador up a place to fifth at 4min 23sec and Nibali also up a place to eighth at 8min 17sec.
Australian Richie Porte says he was punched by a spectator while helping Chris Froome to victory on Tuesday’s 10th stage of the Tour de France.
Froome won the mountain stage that finished in the Pyrenees at La Pierre-Saint Martin, with Porte passing Nairo Quintana to take second place in a Team Sky 1-2.
But the 30-year-old Australian, who will leave Sky at the end of the season, told the Telegraph Podcast that his team are being targeted because of their success.
— The Cycling Podcast (@cycling_podcast) July 17, 2015
“I was (punched) in the last 3km. I got a full-on punch,” said Porte. “It was the same atmosphere on Alpe d’Huez two years ago.”
Froome won the Tour in 2013 after a pairing of stunning stage wins up to Ax 3 Domaines and Mont Ventoux, meaning that by the time he reached the Alps, and Alpe d’Huez, his Tour victory was virtually already sewn up.
Porte said the Sky riders, and Froome in particular, are paying for negative speculation that they are doped.
“They are so anti-whatever we are. Do I deserve to be booed? Does Chris Froome deserve all this? I don’t think so.
“Maybe in 10 years’ time they’re going to see that these victories are legitimate. It’s a disgrace how some of these people carry on.”
But while Porte argued with spectators earlier this week after being abused, he says his team leader, also 30, is handling it much better.
“When they were giving him abuse I heard him laugh about it. He’s got a thick skin and you need that in the yellow jersey.”
Disgraced American Lance Armstrong also had to put up with abuse on mountain stages during his seven-year reign — which he was later stripped of for doping.
The Texan also complained that he was paying for the constant speculation that he was cheating — although in that case, the critics were eventually proved right.
Greg van Avermaet showed powers of perseverance to hold off Peter Sagan and win the 13th stage from Muret to Rodez.
Mark Cavendish thought he had a slim chance of a 27th stage victory on the 198.5-kilometre route, but the concluding climb of Saint-Pierre was 570 metres long at 9.6 per cent, which is the same average gradient as the punishing Mur de Huy.
It was more suited to the likes of Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), but it was Belgian Van Avermaet who claimed his first Tour stage success.
Sagan looked to be rounding the BMC Racing rider in the finishing straight, but Van Avermaet gritted his teeth to ensure the Slovakian's search for a first stage win in two years goes on.
There was small consolation for Sagan, who retained the points classification leader's green jersey after Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) temporarily dislodged him from the lead at the day's intermediate sprint.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished sixth, seven seconds behind, to maintain his overall advantage of two minutes 52 seconds over second-placed Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
Nairo Quintana stayed third, 3:09 adrift as the top of the general classification remained unchanged, with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) still fifth, 4:03 back.