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MTN Qhubeka’s Stephen Cummings wins at the Tour de France 2015 Stage 14

by Todd Hofert

Stephen Cummings, MTN-Qhubeka, Tour de France 2015 Stage 14

Transition Stage. Technically that is what today’s stage was. Does that diminish it in the eyes of a rider or a spectator? I guess it depends upon perspective. From mine, a Tour stage is always a Tour stage, each with their unique characteristics that add to the overall spectacle. Stage 14 from Rodez – Mende would be no exception.

The profile included four categorized climbs including the Côte de la Croix Neuve. Longer than the Mur de Huy and Mûr de Bretagne climbs, and also with a steeper average gradient. It provided a finish that may have bordered on too much for a puncheur and something short of a ‘real’ climb for the GC boys. The long uphill drag from start to finish, the heat and threat of more thunderstorms made for a stage that was anything but a roll through the countryside.

Robert Gesink (Lotto NL-Jumbo) NEL was caught up in a crash just after the neutral zone. Having an excellent Tour thus far despite his early season setbacks it was good to see he was back up and riding and none the worse for the wear. An early break tried and failed as the peloton regrouped after the crash.

The little crash I was involved in was nothing serious. I only had to chase for twenty kilometres to return to the peloton afterwards. Besides that, I was feeling fine. That last climb was an annoying one. It was hectic, but I started climbing in a good position at the front of the group. In the end, I finished in a group with my main competitors and I was setting the pace.”
Robert Gesink, Lotto NL-Jumbo

Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) SVK would initiate an attack and a small group of 5 would form the first successful break of the day. He had Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling), Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing), Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Andrey Grivko (Astana), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) with him. The move would grow to 7 leading up to the first sprint of the day.

Sagan won the intermediate sprint and a chase of 13, including yesterday’s stage winner, Greg Vanavermaet would recognize the significance of having Sagan up the road and the group would swell to 20 soon after. The top five places for the sprint were Peter Sagan, 20 pts, Ruben Plaza, 17 pts, Andriy Grivko, 15 pts, Bob Jungels, 13 pts, Matthieu Ladagnous, 11 pts.

This group had 7:32 with 100km to go. The 13 to join the break were Romain Bardet and Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot and Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Greg van Avermaet (BMC), Koen de Kort (Giant-Alpecin), Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Michal Golas (Etixx-Quick Step), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Kristjian Koren (Cannondale-Garmin), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka)

Andrew Talansky’s Tour misfortunes would continue as he would suffer a puncture that would knock him out of the break and he could be found sitting on the back of the peloton, understandably demoralized.

The race would roll along status quo for the next 50km or so, the peloton content, for the most part, to keep the break around six or seven minutes up the road. The gap would start to fall on the cat 2 Côte de Sauveterre led by Richie Porte and the rest of the Sky train. The results at the top of the climb of the côte de Sauveterre were Matthieu Ladagnous, 5 pts, Jérémy Roy, 3 pts, Jan Bakelants, 2 pts, Jarlinson Pantano, 1 pt.

Soon after the summit Michal Golas (Etixx-Quick Step) attacked the break apparently looking to soften up the group for Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep) ahead of the finale. The break started to fracture as a result. Kristjian Koren (Cannondale-Garmin) got away in pursuit with no concerted chase coming from behind. He would make the connection with Golas at the base of the penultimate climb of Côte de Chabrits.

FDJ was left to lead the chase. Sagan and Greg van Avermaet sitting in readying themselves for the battle to come on the final climb to the line. The gap to the peloton started to grow again to just over six minutes with 9km to go and the winner of the stage now certain to come from the break.

The lead pair hit the base of the climb with a slim 16 second margin, the 18 man chase eager to reel them in and claim a stage win. The attacks started to go with just under 4km to go. Sagan was unable to answer as was van Avermaet. Simon Yates was there, Romain Bardet looking like the man to beat. Thibaut Pinot struggled to recover but clawed back Bardet. Yates popped off the wheel on the steepest section of the climb.

Behind in the peloton an attack came from Nairo Quintana would get a gap on the Yellow Jersey and Froome was isolated. Nibail answered briefly and Froome’s persistence brought him back to the Colombian.

At the front of the race Pinot caught Bardet at just under 2km to go and seemingly from nowhere Steve Cummings would catch them both at the Flamme Rouge. Cummings rode straight past and soloed home for the stage win. Pinot second and Bardet third. The win for Cummings is the first Grand Tour stage win and certainly the biggest win in MTN-Qhubeka team history.

Froome would mark Quintana with Van Garderen popped well down the road, Quintana’s sights set on moving up a step on the podium. Contador losing time and Valverde attacking him late. Froome led the peloton home 4:17 seconds behind the leaders and beat Quintana in the sprint followed by a hard charging Alejandro Valverde.

Peter Sagan consolidated his lead in the Green Jersey competition with a fifth place finish. Chris Froome did the same gaining another 18 seconds on his overall lead. Tejay Van Garderen drops a spot on GC losing time to Quintana and Valverde and perhaps jeopardizing his hopes for a Tour podium, clinging to just a 30 second margin over Alejandro Valverde.

Will Stage 15 offer any opportunity for the riders to recuperate? A few minor climbs up front, an intermediate sprint and a cat 2 in the middle followed by a long descending ride to what would appear to be a day for the sprinters.

I wasn’t the strongest today and I knew there were better climbers in our lead group. 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 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.”
Stephen Cummings, MTN-Qhubeka

I should have won. I really thought I was winning this time. When Thibault Pinot caught me in the climb I was exhausted. We are friends but we both have been fooled by Cummings . It would have been so much better if one of us had won. I attacked early in the climb but I did not know the road very well. There are still opportunities for a stage victory in the alps. However I will need to choose wisely where to attack because I am really tired.”
Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale

Tour de France 2015 Stage 14 Top 10

  1. Stephen Cummings (GBR) #212
    MTN-Qhubeka 04h 23 ’43”
  2. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) #21
    FDJ 04h 23′ 45″ + :02
  3. Romain Bardet (FRA) #12
    AG2R La Mondiale 04h 23’ 46” + :03
  4. Rigoberto Uran (COL) #118
    QUICK STEP-Etixx 04h 24’ 03” + :20
  5. Peter Sagan (SVK) #47
    TINKOFF-SAXO 04h 24’ 12” + :29
  6. Cyril Gautier (FRA) #123
    TEAM EUROPCAR 04h 24’ 15” + :32
  7. Ruben Plaza (ESP) #156
    LAMPRE – MERIDA 04h 24’ 15” + :32
  8. Bob Jungels (LUX) #147
    TREK FACTORY RACING 04h 24’ 15” + :32
  9. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP) #53
    MOVISTAR TEAM 04h 24’ 15” + :32
  10. Simon Yates (GBR) #109
    ORICA GREENEDGE 04h 24’ 16” + :33

Tour de France 2015 General Classification Top 10 after Stage 14

  1. Christopher Froome (GBR) #31
    TEAM SKY 56h 02′ 19″
  2. Nairo Quintana (COL) #51
    MOVISTAR TEAM 56h 05′ 29″ + 3:10
  3. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) #61
    BMC RACING TEAM 56h 05′ 51″ + 3:32
  4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) #59
    MOVISTAR TEAM 56h 06′ 21″ + 4:02
  5. Alberto Contador (ESP) #41
    TINKOFF-SAXO 56h 06′ 42″ + 4:23
  6. Geraint Thomas (GBR) #39
    TEAM SKY 56h 07′ 13″ + 4:54
  7. Robert Gesink (NED) #131
    TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO 56h 08′ 42′” + 6:23
  8. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) #1
    ASTANA PRO TEAM 56h 10′ 36″ + 8:17
  9. Tony Gallopin (FRA) #71
    LOTTO-SOUDAL 56h 10′ 42″ + 8:23
  10. Bauke Moellema (NED) #141
    TREK FACTORY RACING 56h 11′ 12″ + 8:53

Tour de France 2015 Jerseys after Stage 14

Yellow (Overall leader): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Green (Points): Peter Sagan, Tinkoff Saxo
Polka-dot (KOM): Chris Froome, Team Sky
Worn by: Joaquim Rodriguez, Team Katusha
White (Best Young Rider): Nairo Quintana, Movistar

It was really hard because the finale was so tough with a three-kilometer climb of more than 10 percent. I took 20 points in the intermediate sprint and at that point it was really hectic, everybody wanted to break away but I managed to secure the points. It was overall a good day, but the battle for the green jersey is not over.

We have seven stages left and we have to pay attention every day. Today, I said to myself that I would try to go as fast as I could on the final climb and I’m okay with the result. The climbers in the group accelerated at the bottom and I thought that I should keep my own pace and perhaps there would be a slight chance that I could catch them at the top. Of course, I would like to win, but it’s not easy for me on a climb like this. 

Today I was thinking about tomorrow’s stage and I really hadn’t planned to go in the breakaway. But I aimed for the intermediate sprint and suddenly I was in the there and then I stayed, which also meant that I took extra points for the green jersey on the finish line. Maybe I can try again tomorrow but I’m not Superman. So we will see how I feel and for sure we’re going to do our best again, maybe I’m tired and maybe I’m not.”
Peter Sagan, Tinkoff-Saxo

Stage 14
Date: 18 July, 2015
Start:  Rodez
Finish: Mende
Distance: 178 km

Tour de France 2015 Stage 14 route

Tour de France 2015 Stage 14 route map

Tour de France 2015 Stage 14 profile

2016 Tour de France Stage 14 profile
2016 Tour de France Stage 14 profile

Tour de France 2015 Stage 14 climbs

20 km – Côte de Pont-de-Salars1.3 km de montée à 5.8% – category 4
146 km – Côte de Sauveterre9 km de montée à 6% – category  2
169.5 km – Côte de Chabrits1.9 km de montée à 5.9% -category 4
177 km – Côte de la Croix Neuve (1 055 m)3 km de montée à 10.1% -category 2

Maps courtesy of Le Tour de France / © A.S.O.

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