The 34-year-old produced a tactically-perfect display to win from a 22-man breakaway in the ancient city, at the end of a stage that featured the challenging second-category climb of the Côte de la Croix Neuve in the final five kilometres.
Cummings was close to tears when he came to a stop 100 metres from the finish line, and engaged in an emotional embrace with MTN staff and his former Sky team-mate-turned Eurosport reporter Juan Antonio Flecha in the middle of a media scrum.
Asked if he could detail the feeling of winning a Tour stage, the Wirral-born rider replied: “Not really. You grow up and the Tour is a dream; the first time I was here [with Sky in 2010] was a dream.
“Then after I won a stage of the Vuelta [in 2012], I thought if ‘I’ve done it in the Vuelta then why can’t I do it in the Tour?’
“But it’s not as straightforward as that; you need a team who will give you the opportunities and a free role.
“Sometimes it may look bad as I’m at the back of the peloton a lot, but they believed that I could deliver.”
Cummings’s victory took on added significance: he won for a South African team on Mandela Day, the annual celebration of the former president’s birthday.
“We had a special meeting this morning and we had special helmets on because it was Mandela Day,” Cummings added.
“But I don’t think really we thought we could win; it was a long shot. luckily I played it well, everybody helped as best as they could at the start because it was pretty hectic, there was a crash. It was chaotic.”
Television pictures showed Cummings towards the back of the leading group on the lower slopes of the Croix de Neuve climb, only for the next sighting to show him as third man on the road behind French duo Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot entering its final kilometre. He bridged across to the leaders, before going clear on a descent onto the Mende airfield finish line.
“I’m not the best climber in the group, but you’ve got to be prepared to lose in order to win, and I’m just really happy,” he said.
“You have to have the legs; I think I just did it tactically very well. I’m quite pleased.”
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