• Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot in disarray approaching the finish to Stage 14 (AP Photo) (AP)Source: AP
What was a triumphant day for African cycling became an unmitigated disaster for the French as Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (AG2R) allowed Simon Cummings back into a stage he would ultimately win on Mandela Day for MTN-Qhubeka.
Cycling Central

19 Jul 2015 - 10:33 AM  UPDATED 19 Jul 2015 - 10:55 AM

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.

With French president Francois Hollande on site and ready to celebrate what could and maybe should have been only the second French stage win this year, Pinot and Bardet worked themselves into a position of apparent strength as Stage 14 hit the final the climb up Côte de la Croix Neuve into the finish line at Mende.

Pinot’s FDJ outfit had outnumbered the other teams for much of the afternoon, but spent too long at the front sacrificing man after man for Pinot. As the last uphill kilometres hit the riders, they were unable to have an impact, leaving Pinot to fend for himself.

Bardet’s own quest for victory began with just less than 4km to go when he broke clear at the foot of the climb, initially dropping Pinot.

“I felt I had the energy to scatter my opponents, that's why I attacked from the foot of the climb,” he said after also claiming a bout of sickness might have spoilt his chances of victory, not mention a little ignorance on the details of the climb course.

“I paid on top. I did not know the climb. It was a little long,” he lamented.

Pinot eventually re-established contact with Bardet wtih 2.5km to go, thanks to some unwitting help from a tiring Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-QuickStep), who was never going to last the distance as the incline, as the incessant heat of the day, took its toll.

Cummings, meanwhile, was still nowhere to be seen, lurking in a group of riders behind Bardet and Pinot, waiting to pounce. With 2km to go, the British former track cyclist did just that, forcing his way past Uran in a relentless and smart chase of his French rivals.

Pinot picked up Bardet with about 1.8km to race, and the pair then casually looked to be discussing who would take it to the line as the crest of the climb approached.

Then, with the the two young Frenchman lost in conversation, Cummings arrived like a train-grande-vitesse and flew past them on to the short descent to the finish, picking up pace that was never going to be matched.

AG2R sport director Julien Jurdie claimed he had no idea of Cummings’s rapid approach, which did nothing to help Bardet's chances.

“I was mad because I did not have pictures of Cummings,” Jurdie said. “I did not know where he was at all. I was focused on Uran and then suddenly, Cummings arrived like a rock.”

It was another careless day for the AG2R team, which was also carrying a wounded Jean-Christophe Peraud after he inexplicably fell hard during Stage 13 with no other incidents around him.

"Just before I crashed, I was looking behind me which is a little bit stupid," Peraud said after Stage 13.

"I was wondering where was Alexis (Vuillermoz) in order to give bottles to him and my other team-mates. I just wanted to be useful for the team because I do not feel in great shape currently.

It is only getting worse for me with this crash. Right now, all my body is hurting me but I will be ready for tomorrow's stage."

While that promise was kept, such was the nature of his wounds – severe road rash and a skinless fifth finger on his left hand – it reportedly took Peraud more than 30 minutes to don his racing attire ahead of Stage 14.

Vuillermoz, who presumably never received his bottle from Peraud, remains the sole French stage winner at the 2015 Tour de France, having claimed Stage 8.

Rare French win
Vuillermoz wins on the Mûr de Bretagne
Lightly-regarded Alexis Vuillermoz of the AG2R team defied predictions and all the favourites to win the Stage 8 of the Tour de France overnight.

With only two stage winners in 2014, Blel Kadri (Stage 8) and Tony Gallopin (Stage 11), the lack of success at its own race is becoming something of a French frustration.

In 2013, only Christophe Riblon managed a win for the home nation, atop the iconic Alpe d’Huez stage, and it has been a long 30 years since Bernard Hinault became the most recent overall winner for France.

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