SAN DIEGO, July 18, 2015 – This year, Team MTN-Qhubeka made history as the first African-registered team to take part in the Tour de France. Saturday, MTN-Qhubeka riders wore orange helmets and yellow and black Qhubeka beaded bracelets, joined by various other teams, media and fans, in memory of Nelson Mandela on his birthday. Established in 2009, Nelson Mandela Day is meant to encourage South Africans to emulate Mandela’s humanitarian legacy and recognize the decades he spent fighting apartheid.
Imagine the elation back home in South Africa when cycling fans watched Stephen Cummings of Great Britain speed past French riders Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet to snatch the stage victory from France in honor of Mandela and the team.
Cummings took away one of the last chances for France to get a stage win right in front of French president Francois Hollande, who was on the route.
An early breakaway did its best to get out far enough in front to hold off the peloton, and the overall leaders were content to let them go. Two dozen cyclists stayed together including sprint leader Peter Sagan of Tinkoff Saxo. Sagan’s goals were a bit different, taking the intermediate sprint points to stretch his lead in the green jersey competition.
With 20 miles to go, attacks began on the way up the final short steep climb to the finish. It looked like the duel between the next generation of French riders would prevail, but Cummings seemed to come out of nowhere at the crest of the hill, and took off around two curves, speeding down to the finish which was placed on an airport runway.
The race leaders had their own competition within the stage on the final climb. As promised before the race, Nairo Quintana of Movistar attacked race leader Chris Froome of Team Sky to try and gain some time going into the final mountain stages in the coming days. Quintana was successful in passing American Tejay Van Garderen into second place overall and putting addition time between him and the rest of the top rivals, his teammate Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador of Tinkoff Saxo.
Froome has a three minute and 10 second lead on Quintana. From second to fifth place the riders are within one minute and 13 seconds of each other. The Alpine stages next week will determine the winner of this year’s Tour. Froome seems impossible to shake with his good form.
Barring a disaster, Sagan will wear the green jersey all the way to Paris. Quintana has a solid hold on the white jersey as the best young rider. Joaquim Rodriguez remains in the polka dot jersey, but it will be up for grabs in the Alps before the end of the Tour.
Stage 15 takes the riders down into the Rhone Valley. If the sprinters want to have a chance to battle at the finish line, they will need to navigate a nasty little category 2 climb two-thirds of the way through the stage. Peter Sagan is still looking for a stage win and this could be the opportunity he’s looking for.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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