Steve Cummings attacked from behind on the final climb on stage 14 of the Tour de France to win for MTN-Qhubeka, on the special anniversary of Nelson Mandela's birthday. An already special day became a historic fairy-tale win, with the first Tour stage victory for the team on such an important day of remembrance for South Africa.
"This will go down in history," Brian Smith, sports director for the team, told the Cyclingnews podcast. "Steve Cummings, a Brit, winning on Mandela Day! I don't think the script could be written any better, but we have to keep our feet on the ground. I want to win another stage, and we have got the guys capable of winning another."
Rather than a celebratory holiday, Nelson Mandela International Day, (Mandela Day for short), is used to give back to the communities of South Africa. In the spirit of the former President and his legacy, people commemorate by doing 67 minutes of community and voluntary service. Mandela would have celebrated his 97th birthday on Saturday.
MTN-Qhubeka riders donned special orange and black helmets Saturday, to raise awareness for Qhubeka and the bicycle change lives campaign. The campaign is raising money this season in order to provide students in Africa with 5,000 bicycles. Meanwhile, team staff, media, and fans wore yellow and black beaded bracelets in memory of Mandela.
Qhubeka Founder Anthony Fitzhenry agreed, "We see this as an opportunity to bring unity to our supporters from all over the world and we thank them for their help in assisting Qhubeka in relieving poverty in Africa through bicycles."
"As a child I dreamed of being able to ride in the Tour de France," Louis Meintjes said, one of the five African riders competing for the team. "To be able to not only ride in this prestigious race but 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 July 18th in some small way."
Smith says the team believed in their chances and have shown they deserved to be in the Tour, especially after Daniel Teklehaimanot's opening days in the polka dot jersey. "We couldn't have planned it better," he added. "We've been chopping at the door. Serge [Pauwels] was fourth, maybe we should have done something different on different days. If I had chosen a day that would've been perfect, it would've been today."
After riding patiently behind the two Frenchmen, Pinot and Bardet who attacked in the final climb hoping to make it to the line, Cummings jumped at his chance to attack for the win.
"I threw caution to the wind and just went for it," Cummings said after the stage."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.
"While the team looks for more stage winning opportunities, they took a moment to embrace and celebrate the day. “We've already had champagne, believe it or not, when Daniel took the King of the Mountains, and Douglas [Ryder] sent us over some champagne when they found a new sponsor for us. So, yeah, definitely champagne, maybe a glass of wine or something but the whole team deserve it, they've really worked hard."
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