In Africa Steve Cummings is a hero after winning a stage at the Tour de France on Mandela Day. In France he is perhaps seen as a villain after beating Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale). For the MTN-Qhubeka team it was a historic day, taking their first ever Tour victory. For Cummings it is a day of celebration and redemption after years of injuries, doubts and misunderstandings with his teams and himself.
Cummings was one of the most talented riders in the Great Britain track team in his early 20s. He had the power to produce super fast laps on the track but lacked consistency. He preferred to focus on road racing rather than suffer in a rigid track programme. He has won a handful of races in the past, including a stage at the 2012 Vuelta but finally showed his talent on a global stage in Mende.
After hiding in the break that shaped the stage, Cummings seemed to come from nowhere to catch and pass Pinot and Bardet. In truth, he produced a controlled effort, only giving it all and going deep in the final part of the steep climb to Mende after team manager Brian Smith told him to attack after he saw that the two French riders had eased up. Cummings used his innate power and aero position to do the rest, surging up to Pinot and Bardet and then going past them and driving to the finish.
“It’s the Tour and everyone wants a chance. I took my opportunity,” Cummings said after celebrating on the podium on the airstrip above Mende.