JUBILANT: Stephen Cummings celebrates victory at the finish of stage 14 in the Tour de France at Mende.Stephen Cummings celebrated Nelson Mandela Day in style for his African team MTN-Qhubeka by taking a historic first Tour de France stage victory on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Briton timed his effort to perfection as he outwitted French pair Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot to win the 178.5km trek from Rodez to Mende.
“It’s my first time (winning a Tour stage) and just to be here it’s a dream,” said Cummings.
“When I did it in Vuelta (a Espana), I thought ‘I did it in the Vuelta, so why not in the Tour’, but it’s not as simple as that,” he added.
Michael Rogers (30th overall) and Adam Hansen were the best of the Australians just under 10 minutes behind Cummings.
Compatriot Richie Porte was well back at the tail of the field after getting a puncture while trying to rejoin his teammates with bidons.
Chris Froome tightened his grip on the leader’s yellow jersey but Nairo Quintana jumped over Tejay Van Garderen into second.
With the Alps looming in a few days, Froome said the Colombian was now his major rival.
“Nairo seems to be the biggest threat to me at this stage, he was really strong up the climb today,” said Froome, who leads the Colombian by 3min 10sec.
“But having said that, I don’t think I can write off any of the guys in the top ten.”
Quintana lost only one second to Froome while his Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde lost just 4sec and is fourth at 4min 02sec.
And Quintana has not given up hopes of winning come Paris a week on Sunday.
“We’ve shown that we can fight for the yellow jersey,” said the 25-year-old.
Cummings, who was part of a 20-man breakaway that contested the victory, admitted he didn’t think he could win the stage as he’s not a known climber and the brutally tough 3km ascent just before the finish did not suit his strengths, unlike Bardet and Pinot.
“I knew the climb was really hard and that I wasn’t the best climber. I wasn’t thinking of victory, just my effort and arriving at the top on the limit rather than blowing halfway up.
“There were a lot of climbers better than me but I didn’t get excited because it’s the Tour.
“I went full gas at the top of the climb. I could still see Pinot and when the road tipped and went down, the race changed in my favour because I have more kilos and I’m probably more aerodynamic than those two.
“They didn’t cooperate in front and when I caught them I went straight to front because I knew there were a few corners and Pinot’s a bit cautious in the corners.
“So I tried to do the corners as fast as I could, without taking any risks, and when I came out the last one I saw he (Pinot) wasn’t in my wheel and I just went for it.
“I know from the track that with 400-500m to the finish it’s difficult for a climber to stay in a track rider’s wheel.”
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