It had looked as though the win would be decided between Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) as they rode clear of their breakaway companions on the final climb of the day, but a strong ride and surprise attack from the British rider gave his African team the perfect result to celebrate Mandela Day.
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Earlier on the climb, hopes for a British victory were squarely on Simon Yates’s (Orica-GreenEdge) shoulders as he looked to bridge over to Bardet. Although he made the catch, Bardet kicked again and Yates could not match the acceleration.
As Pinot made the junction with Bardet and proposed they worked together to reach the finish, Cummings made his way up the climb and darted straight past them on a flat section just after the 1km to go banner. The gap, and his time trialling ability, was enough to see him cross the line first.
Further back, the GC battle was being raged as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) attacked first and was initially joined by Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Nibali was soon caught and dropped by the pursuers, and before long only Chris Froome (Team Sky) could stay with Quintana, eventually pipping the Colombian by a single second on the finish line.
That result slightly extends Froome’s overall lead, and sees Quintana leapfrog Tejay van Garderen (BMC) to move second overall.
On a day made for a breakaway, many riders were willing to oblige and after a scrappy start the group finally settled down. The established breakaway consisted of 20 riders, including Pinot, Bardet, Sagan and Yates, all of whom are in the vying for the best young rider’s white jersey.
Back in the peloton, Team Sky took up pacing duty on the front of the pack and marshalled the gap to the break, which at its peak was over 7-30 but on the whole held around six minutes.
Tour de France 2015, stage 14: Rodez to Mende, 178.5km
1. Steve Cummings (GBr) MTN-Qhubeka, 4-23-43
2. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 2 secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R at 3 secs
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx – Quick-Step at 20 secs
5. Peter Sagan (SVK) Tinkoff-Saxo at 29 secs
6. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar at 32 secs
7. Ruben Plaza (Esp) Lampre-Merida, st
8. Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory Racing, st
9. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar, st
10. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 33 secs
Overall classification after stage 14
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3-10
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 3-32
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 4-02
5.Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 4-23
6. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 4-54
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 6-23
8.Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 8-17
9. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal at 8-23
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing at 8-53