Another great achievement for team MTN-Qhubeka in this year’s Tour de France: Steve Cummings wins stage 14. This is the first-ever victory for an African team in the history of the Tour, and the best thing is, it was on Nelson Mandela International Day (or Mandela Day), an annual international day in honor of Nelson Mandela, celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday.
Steve Cummings was part of a big early break that survived all the way to the finish in Mende. On the final steep climb, he disappeared like many others. It seemed Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) or Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was going to win the stage, who moved clear of the breakaway group. But the 34-year-old British rider successfully paced himself, and in the last kilometer, while Pinot and Bardet were looking at each other, he came out of nowhere. And he came fast! Being a good time trial specialist and former team and individual pursuit medalist, he managed to hold the gap between him and two Frenchman and won a very special victory.
The first victory for MTN-Qhubeka at the Tour de France
It was the first victory for the South African team at the Tour de France.
The South African team (Qhubeka is an Nguni -Zulu, Xhosa- word that means “to carry on”, “to progress”, “to move forward”) already put their mark on this years’ Tour: the Eritrean rider Daniel Teklehaimanot became the first African rider to wear the Tour de France’s Polka Dot Jersey.
Steve Cummings said that:
“I wasn’t the strongest today and I knew there were better climbers in our leading group. I had to play the waiting game today as FDJ was looking to set up Pinot for the win. I waited and waited and eventually, the last climb arrived which I rode at my own pace. Pinot and Bardet were just ahead and I used them as the carrot dangling in front of me for motivation.”
“Everyone went bananas at the start of the climb but the key was to remain calm and take my opportunity when it arrived. I made contact with the two Frenchman at the top of the climb and knew they might hesitate to chase me if I got the jump on them on the flat part before the finish. I threw caution to the wind and just went for it. 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.”
MTN-Qhubeka came the Tour with a wildcard invitation. I thing the ASO (Tour de France organizer) is really happy for that wildcard decision so far.
The team was founded in 2007, becoming a Continental Team in 2008. The team remained as a UCI Continental Team until the end of the 2012 season, with the team registering its interest for a Professional Continental licence for 2013. In November 2012, the team were registered as a Professional Continental team -Africa’s first- by the Union Cycliste Internationale, for the 2013 season.
The team achieved their first major win in 2013 when Gerald Ciolek won Milan-San Remo, one of the 5 Monuments of cycling. The team received their first Grand Tour wildcard for the 2014 Vuelta a España. On January 14 the Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) announced the 22 teams that will participate in the 2015 Tour de France, with MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung receiving an invitation.