• Steve Cummings celebrates with a five finger salute, symbolising the MTN-Qhubeka team's greater mission at the Tour de France (AAP) (EPA)Source: EPA
Steve Cummings’s Stage 14 win held extra significance for the MTN-Qhubeka team, which was motivated by Mandela Day to make a difference to the lives of children at home in Africa.
By
Cycling Central

19 Jul 2015 - 7:37 AM  UPDATED 19 Jul 2015 - 1:30 PM

Mandela Day is celebrated annually on 18 July in South Africa, co-inciding with the birthday of the late Nelson Mandela. To honour the 67 years Mandela spent striving to make the world a better place, South Africans spend at least 67 minutes annually on the date undertaking good deeds for their communities.

MTN-Qhubeka, the first African-registered team to race in the Tour de France, is using its time at the iconic event to rally support around the campaign #BicyclesChangeLives, which will fund 5000 bicycles for students in Africa.

The Stage 14 race plan for MTN-Qhubeka, a wildcard entry at this year’s Tour, was always to animate the stage on a day where it hoped to bring light to the Mandela Day cause. Nobody could have dreamed of the fairy-tale finish that was.

Dateline special: Tuesday 21 July 9:30pm on SBS

The win came on another transitional stage of the Tour after Cummings found himself in the main break of the day. The 34-year-old British racer was joined by 19 other eager contenders as they built up an eight-minute lead over the peloton.

Stage 14 report
Mandela Day stage victory for MTN-Qhubeka’s Cummings
Steve Cummings punched his way up the Côte de la Croix Neuve to snatch a historic win on the 14th stage of the Tour de France.

In a late solo escape, Cummings was able to distance Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) by a very slight margin but still enough to claim a historical stage victory for MTN-Qhubeka.

The two Frenchman that took the minor podium placings hesitated in chasing down the British victor when he attacked at the summit of the final climb of the day. This hesitation was all that was needed for Cummings to cross the line first, arms aloft and history written.

“I wasn’t the strongest today and I knew there were better climbers in our lead group,” Cummings said. “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.”

Cummings crossed the line, displaying the team’s five-finger salute, symbolising the 5000 bikes they want tto fund through the #BicyclesChangeLives campaign.

While the team has always focused on developing African cyclists to compete at the highest levels of the sport, it’s also always been about more than just winning races.

The MTN-Qhubeka team raced in orange helmets to pay tribute to Qhubeka, World Bicycle Relief’s programme in South Africa, and to raise awareness about the campaign. Team riders and staff also wore yellow and black Qhubeka beaded bracelets in memory of Mandela.

“As a child I dreamt of being able to ride in the Tour de France,” said Cummings’s team-mate Louis Meintjes before the stage began.

“To be able to not only ride in this prestigious race but to know that I’m doing something good for other people is really special.

“Nelson Mandela brought the whole country together and I would love to see cycling make a difference on 18 July in some small way.”

Cummings’s win has given the initiative more impact than the team could have hoped for; a proud moment for Africa, the team, and fans of the sport worldwide.

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