Cummings Wins Stage 14 of Tour; Froome Extends Lead
Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) has won Stage 13 of the Tour de France. The Briton who rides for a South African team surprised Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) to take the hilly, 178.5-km ride from Rodez to Mende in 4:23:42. Pinot finished second at 0:02, and Bardet settled for third at 0:03. Chris Froome (Sky) remains the maillot jaune.
The stage began badly with a crash at five km that took down Pinot and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and forced Steve Morabito (BMC) to abandon. At 18 km, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Gianpaolo Caruso (Katusha), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), and Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18) went off of the front. Nineteen other riders, among them Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling), joined the break. At 45 km, Andriy Grivko (Astana), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) attacked from the break. Talansky was dropped when he punctured, but the others rode on.
After the intermediate sprint at 78 km, a regroupment occurred. A lead group of 20 formed that consisted of Pinot, Matthieu Ladagnous, and Jeremy Roy (all from FDJ); Andriy Grivko (Astana); Bardet and Jan Bakelants (both from Ag2r-La Mondiale); Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank); Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar); Greg van Avermaet (BMC); Koen de Kort (Giant-Alpecin); Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge); Michal Golas and Rigoberto Uran (both from Etixx-Quick Step); Cyril Gautier (Europcar); Bob Jungels (Trek); Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida); Kristjian Koren (Cannondale-Garmin); Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling); Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Seche Environnement); and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka). The break led the bunch by 8:15 when Sky took over at the front to peg the lead at about seven minutes.
As the break reached the stage’s last 30 km, it was obvious that a break member would win. Golas made the first move. The Pole attacked with 27 km left to soften up the break for Uran. Koren joined Golas with 11 km to go. FDJ led the break’s pursuit, and with five km remaining the leader’s advantage had been cut to 0:05. Bardet overtook the pair on the Category 2 Cote de la Croix Neuve with 3.8 km left, and Pinot joined the Ag2r-La Mondiale man two km later.
Pinot and Bardet played cat and mouse. Behind, Cummings took the hill at his own pace and then accelerated at the summit. On the flat run to the finish, the MTN-Qhubeka man jumped the two Frenchmen and powered past them for the win.
Behind, the heads of state attempted to take time from each other. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) attacked, and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) chased first. The maillot jaune group splintered as Froome fought his way up to Quintana and bested the Colombian in a sprint.
Cummings said that he won by using guile as much as strength. “I wasn’t the strongest today and I knew there were better climbers in our lead group,” Cummings said. “I had to play the waiting game today as FDJ were looking to set up Pinot for the win. I waited and waited and eventually the last climb arrived which I rode at my own pace. Pinot and Bardet were just ahead and I used them as the carrot dangling in front of me for motivation. Everyone went bananas at the start of the climb but the key was to remain calm and take my opportunity when it arrived. I made contact with the two Frenchman at the top of the climb and knew they might hesitate to chase me if I got the jump on them on the flat part before the finish. I threw caution to the wind and just went for it. It paid off and I won the stage. This is an incredible day for me and the team, with it being Mandela Day the team was motivated more than usual but I don’t think we can quite believe what has just happened. It may take a while to sink in.”
Froome relied on his team to bring him to the climb, and he remained calm when Quintana attacked. “As far as the racing went, it was a really good day for us," the Sky man said. "The team did a great job getting me to that final climb in a good position, and then I just rode at tempo to keep things under control.
"It was a short, steep climb at three km, and I knew what pace I had to ride. I knew Quintana wouldn’t be able to get that far away from me so I didn’t panic, rode at my own speed, and brought him back before the top. He’s my main rival on the climbs, and deserves that respect, but he wasn’t getting away from me today.
"I’d like to congratulate MTN-Qhubeka for their victory today too. Having an African team take a win on Madiba Day was really special, and even better for me that it came from a fellow Brit and former team-mate in Steve Cummings."
In the overall, Froome leads Quintana by 3:10 and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) by 3:32. Stage 15 will not change this state of affairs. The 183-km ride from Mende to Valence will feature four categorized climbs, the last of which will be the Category 2 Col de l’Escrinet, which will summit at 126.5 km. The sprinters’ teams will be able to reel in any escapes before the finish. Who will win? Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step)? Sagan? Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!