Rider of the week
With 1500 meters left of stage 14 of the Tour de France, it looked like the win will be a 100% French affair between AG2R’s Romain Bardet and FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot, third in last year’s edition. They were the strongest on the Côte de la Croix Neuve, the climb leading towards the Mende Aerodrome and after their attacks ended up with a stalemate, the victory should have been decided in a two-way sprint, 20 years after their countryman Laurent Jalabert made this finish famous in the race, with a win which came following a very long break.
It wasn’t another dream scenario for the French last Saturday, but a nightmare one, as 34-year-old Brit Stephen Cummings timed his effort to perfection and catched Bardet and Pinot just before the top of the climb and created a gap of just a couple of meters, that allowed him to soar to his second career Grand Tour victory, after the one in the 2012 edition of the Vuelta a España (stage 12, Santiago de Compostela-Ferrol), when he was part of another successful breakaway.
Although Côte de la Croix Neuve wasn’t a territory to his liking, Cummings clenched his teeth once he was distanced and then pulled hard to get in touch with his opponents, showing a huge fighting power which basically can be considered a trademark of his personality during a career in which he was forced to get over a series of injuries that took him off the track on too many occasions.
Stage 14 of the Grande Boucle wasn’t just Cummings first Tour de France win, but also MTN-Qhubeka’s maiden Grand Tour victory, one which fittingly came on Mandela Day, the special anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. A great moment for the South-African team, which will go down in history and will serve as a foundation for the Qhubeka charity, that aims to improve the life of African children and get more and more of them on the bikes, the prime target being not to find the continent’s first Tour de France winner, but to change destinies.