Saturday July 18
Rodez to Mende
178.5km - 4704m elevation - 1 sprint - 4 KOM's
1st – Stephen Cummings, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung
2nd – Thibaut Pinot, FDJ
3rd – Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale
General Classification – Chris Froome, Team Sky
King of the Mountains – Chris Froome, Team Sky
Sprint Competition – Peter Sagan, Tinkoff - Saxo
Best Young Rider – Nairo Quintana, Movistar
Most aggressive rider - Pierre-Luc Perichon, Bretagne-Seche Envrionnement
Team Competition - Movistar
July 18 was always going to be a very special day for South Africa and MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung team. It was the birthday of the late Nelson Mandela and the team were riding the stage in honour of the great man. In their wildest dreams they wouldn't have predicted such a wonderful outcome, a stage victory to Stephen Cummings, paying tribute to Mandela's fighting spirit in the best way possible.
The stage 14 profile suggested it could have been a day for the breakaway, and as such it was a popular place to be. Initially five riders got clear including green jersey wearer Peter Sagan of Tinkoff - Saxo, but the group quickly swelled to 24. While the infighting for the breakaway was going on, Bora - Argon18 rider Bartosz Huzarski, crested the Cote de Pont-de-Salars first, picking up a KOM point.
Approaching the intermediate sprint of the day and the breakaway had split into two groups, a leading group of seven including Sagan, and a chasing group of 13. The leading group reached the sprint with a gap and Sagan was able to accomplish his goal for the day, taking maximum points and strengthening his position in the sprint classification.
Shortly after the intermediate sprint the two groups came together, a breakaway group of 20 had now formed and their lead over the peloton was 8:10. The most notable riders in the breakaway were Thibaut Pinot of FDJ, Romain Bardet and Jan Bakelants of AG2R La Mondiale, Rigoberto Uran of Etixx - Quick Step, Bob Jungles of Trek Factory Racing, Simon Yates of Orica-GreenEDGE and the boss Sagan.
The composition of the race would stay largely the same with Team Sky keeping the time gap steady in the peloton. The race was proving to be extremely fast, an average speed of 44.1kph over the first three hours.
With 40km to go the breakaway of 20 riders began to climb the category 2 Cote de Sauveterre with an advantage of 6:15. Two FDJ riders were setting the tempo at the front for Pinot who was now hoping for a stage victory, his GC hopes dashed. Despite averaging just under 20kph up the 9km climb with an average gradient of 6%, the breakaway group was still intact at the top and holding a 5:30 advantage over the peloton.
Not wanting to go into the final few kilometres with the big names in the breakaway, Etixx - Quick Step rider Michal Golas attacked with 27km to go and opened up a good gap. With 15km to go Golas had opened up a 30 second gap as the breakaway were too busy looking around at each other to see who would close it down. At this time Cannondale - Garmin rider Kristijan Koren tried to bridge across to Golas, eventually joining him at the start of the Cote de Chabrits.
The two riders had 10 seconds on the breakaway with 10km to go, but given the strength of the riders behind them, their attempt was doomed. Back in the peloton, the gap had gone back out to six minutes, the main group uninterested in the breakaway saving their legs for the final climb.
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The final climb up the Cote de la Croix Neuve was a brutal one. Only 3km in length but an average gradient of 10.1%.
With 3.8km to go the two riders were caught and Bardet immediately attacked. He was brought back shortly after, but as soon as the group came back together he went again. That attack put the nail in the coffin of almost all the breakaway riders, Yates being the only rider that could respond. Bardet was not to be denied though, again attacking as soon as the pace dropped slightly. For all of Bardet's troubles so far he was riding the race of his life on the final climb. Not to be outdone, Thibaut Pinot rode up to Bardet and the pair looked like they were about to resume their battles of 2014. While they were playing cat and mouse, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung rider Steve Cummings surprised them, riding straight past with 1.2km to go. Cummings then attacked the downhill run to the line, cutting the corners and not backing off his pace at all. This gave him a slight advantage going into the final straight. He led the two Frenchmen out with 300m to go, but they couldn't hold his wheel. Cummings was an inspired rider and he would have the strength to finish two seconds ahead of Bardet and Pinot who bungled their chance at a stage victory.
Back in the peloton and it was Team Sky setting the tempo. Instead of waiting for the end of the climb, Nairo Quintana of Movistar attacked early - Vincenzo Nibali of Astana Pro Team the only rider to follow his wheel. Tejay van Garderen of BMC Racing Team, Alejandro Valverde of Movistar and Chris Froome of Team Sky all looked to be in difficulty, none of them answering the attack. Froome was now alone - having run out of team mates - and for the first time looking vulnerable. Nibali and Quintana were taking turns at the front to keep pushing the pace, Froome slowly making ground on the pair. With 1.5km to go it was a race in two. Nibali's earlier efforts had cost him, and van Garderen was going backwards and losing his second place position. Quintana kept attacking and Froome kept riding back to him, the yellow jersey wearer now looking comfortable on Quintana's wheel. Quintana kept pushing to the line, now thinking about gaining seconds on van Garderen to move himself up into second overall. As the two approached the line Froome opened up a sprint and got a small amount of separation on Quintana, a psychological reminder he is the stronger of the two.