On another warm day the peloton was put through a hellish first hour of racing as a big crash in the peloton had riders chasing to catch back on to the peloton at the same time as lots of riders tried to get in the big break of the day. Peter Sagan got himself into a big group of over twenty riders but it was not to be as easy as that as teams were not happy with the make-up of the break and reeled it back in, making riders attack once more and eventually re-form the break.
In this new configuration, with the most notable names being Sagan, Pinot, Bardet, Simon Yates, Uran, Van Avermaet and Steve Cummings, Team Sky sat up at the front of the peloton allowing the attackers to get away. FDJ were well represented with three riders and as the stage had passed the spectacular Tarn river valley and went into uphill terrain again they took charge of driving the break for Pinot. The gap to the peloton went up to eight minutes at most and then slowly crept downwards but never fast enough that it looked like the stagewin would come into play for the peloton.
Approaching the final climb to Mende Michal Golas and Kristjan Koren tried to pre-empt the stronger climbers but FDJ never allowed them much room. Getting onto the climb Romain Bardet was the one to start off the attacking almost immediately, blowing the break up and making it a man against man fight for the entire climb. Initially only Yates and Pantano seemed able to follow while Pinot looked done for. This would turn out to be a climb for the patient though as he chugged along at his own pace, gradually closing the gap and passing Yates and Pantano. Uran used a similar strategy but he too had to surrender to Pinot's tempo and soon it became apparent that the two frenchmen would form a duo at the front. Behind, out of sight of the cameras, Cummings was using the same strategy as Pinot and discretely he was sneaking up on the duo of the tiring Bardet and Pinot. As the road flattened and turned slightly downward towards the finish on the airfield in Mende Cummings played his card , exploiting the inattention of the frenchmen to put in one strong surge to pass them and lead into the final turns on the course. Pinot tried to give chase but was on the back foot the moment they let Cummings zoom past. Cummings himself said he used the frenchman's more hesitant cornering to his advantage, committing fully and building an uncatchable lead coming into the final straight to grab his and South African MTN-Qubeka's first TdF stage victory on the symbolically important Mandela Day.
Among the GC favorites Nairo Quintana mimicked Bardet's early attack to test out Chris Froome . The Sky captain had to fend for himself and slowly clawed back the attack but he was alone in managing the feat. Nibali and Van Garderen were struggling on the steep slopes having to see the other GC bigs ride away from them . Alberto Contador and Valverde had a little bit of a spat among themselves in between with Valverde outsprinting his compatriot to grab a few extra seconds. Sprint too did Froome who set in a fierce, legspinning charge to the line to grab one massive, decisive second on Quintana. It might have been the move that decided the entire race.
In the end Tejay van Garderen lost 40 seconds on Froome, Nibali 30 seconds which isn't insignificant on what was really seen as a minor day, with much bigger to come. The climb in Mende is a hard one though and even a small moment of weakness can prove costly as we saw. For the French it was another day of disappointment as their two big pre-race stars missed out on a golden opportunity to save a little bit of glory from an otherwise meager race. Meanwhile it appears that Froome's finish line aggression might have been spurred on by some anger as he claimed to have been the victim of more abuse out on the roads, this time in the form of a spectator throwing a cup of urine and screaming "doper" at him. This follows an incident where Richie Porte claims to have been punched by a spectator on the first Preneean stage. Hopefully the moods of the crowds will be more cheerful on the big Alpine stages or we could be in for a troubled final week of the race
TOP 10 Stage 14
|1.||GBRCUMMINGS Stephen||212||MTN-QHUBEKA||04h 23' 43''|
|2.||FRAPINOT Thibaut||21||FDJ||04h 23' 45''||+ 00' 02''|
|3.||FRABARDET Romain||12||AG2R LA MONDIALE||04h 23' 46''||+ 00' 03''|
|4.||COLURAN URAN Rigoberto||118||ETIXX-QUICK STEP||04h 24' 03''||+ 00' 20''|
|5.||SVKSAGAN Peter||47||TINKOFF-SAXO||04h 24' 12''||+ 00' 29''|
|6.||FRAGAUTIER Cyril||123||TEAM EUROPCAR||04h 24' 15''||+ 00' 32''|
|7.||ESPPLAZA MOLINA Ruben||156||LAMPRE - MERIDA||04h 24' 15''||+ 00' 32''|
|8.||LUXJUNGELS Bob||147||TREK FACTORY RACING||04h 24' 15''||+ 00' 32''|
|9.||ESPCASTROVIEJO NICOLAS Jonathan||53||MOVISTAR TEAM||04h 24' 15''||+ 00' 32''|
|10.||GBRYATES Simon||109||ORICA GREENEDGE||04h 24' 16''||+ 00' 33''|
TOP 10 General Classification
|1.||GBRFROOME Christopher||31||TEAM SKY||56h 02' 19''|
|2.||COLQUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander||51||MOVISTAR TEAM||56h 05' 29''||+ 03' 10''|
|3.||USAVAN GARDEREN Tejay||61||BMC RACING TEAM||56h 05' 51''||+ 03' 32''|
|4.||ESPVALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro||59||MOVISTAR TEAM||56h 06' 21''||+ 04' 02''|
|5.||ESPCONTADOR Alberto||41||TINKOFF-SAXO||56h 06' 42''||+ 04' 23''|
|6.||GBRTHOMAS Geraint||39||TEAM SKY||56h 07' 13''||+ 04' 54''|
|7.||NEDGESINK Robert||131||TEAM LOTTO NL - JUMBO||56h 08' 42''||+ 06' 23''|
|8.||ITANIBALI Vincenzo||1||ASTANA PRO TEAM||56h 10' 36''||+ 08' 17''|
|9.||FRAGALLOPIN Tony||71||LOTTO-SOUDAL||56h 10' 42''||+ 08' 23''|
|10.||NEDMOLLEMA Bauke||141||TREK FACTORY RACING||56h 11' 12''||+ 08' 53''|