As the Tour de France gears up for its first real battle for the yellow jersey, it was the breakaway that took centre stage on stage 7 to Lac de Payolle. The race-winning break included some big names including former winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and multiple stage winner Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) but it was Dimension Data's Stephen Cummings that shone with his second career Tour de France stage victory.
Cummings escaped in the second, and what would prove to be the crucial, major break of the day. The move was initiated by Cancellara after several other early attacks had failed to stick. Cummings saw his chance and jumped over to the group that was forming as a result of Cancellara's attack.
As the riders hit the top of the Cote de Capvern, the first attacks from the breakaway began. Cummings bided his time, holding back when Nibali went off the front near the top of the fourth category ascent. As Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie) and Matti Breschel (Cannondale-Draapac) eventually decided to go inside the final 50 kilometres, the 35-year-old tried to follow but first attempt to make it across was thwarted.
Cummings eventually made it across in a lone move almost 10 kilometres after the leading pair had attacked. He stayed with them briefly before attacking again between the two climbs of the day, spurred on by the disappointment of missing out on Olympic selection ahead of the Tour de France.
Behind, Nibali, Van Avermaet, Daryl Impey and Daniel Navarro tried to chase, but Cummings had built up a sufficient lead by the Col d'Aspin and he was able to increase it on the descent. Almost a year on from his surprise first Tour de France stage win, Cummings had plenty of time to celebrate this time around. His victory gives Dimension Data an impressive win ratio of four from seven in this opening week, thanks to Mark Cavendish's three sprint victories.
Rolf Aldag: Guiding him on a downhill from an iPad and my own memories was a bit hard. To tell a guy who descends at 85kph that there is a corner that is full gas, so he better be sure. I have to say, I was getting a little bit nervous but he did it brilliantly so we are all super happy.
Doug Ryder: For Steve to win a stage that he had planned and we had planned for him is just amazing. Steve is very particular about looking at certain things and he's very disciplined in preparing for something like this. I can't believe that every stage and every race that Steve has fully prepared for this year he has done it. It's unbelievable and it just shows how things have worked out for him but he has the character and focus to make it happen.
Daniel Benson says: After what Cummings did in the Dauphine with the impressive stage to Superdévoluy, and the fallout from his Olympic snub, you could safely predict that the Dimension Data rider would win at the Tour. The only doubt surrounded whether he would be too heavily marked but on the stage to Lac de Payolle he beat the break, beat the bunch, and took his second Tour stage in as many years. Greg van Avermaet put in a gutsy ride, no doubt, but rider of the day had to go to Cummings.
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