Stephen Cummings celebrated Nelson Mandela Day in style for his South African team MTN-Qhubeka by taking a historic first Tour de France stage victory on Saturday.

Qhubeka became the first ever African team to take part in the Tour this year and Briton Cummings gave them a historic victory on the 178.5km 14th stage from Rodez to Mende — and that on the international day to honour Mandela.

And on a day in which Britain’s Davis Cup tennis team took a 2-1 lead over France, Briton Cummings stole a march on a pair of Frenchmen to win the stage as compatriot Chris Froome retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.

The stage victory looked to have come down to a battle between Frenchmen as Romain Bardet attacked on the brutal final climb — 3km long at an average 10.1 percent gradient — ahead of the finish.

Thibaut Pinot emerged from the remainder of a 20-man breakaway group to chase down his countryman but once he caught Bardet, the two started playing cat-and-mouse in the final kilometre.

Cummings arrived like a freight train and blasted straight past the Frenchmen before taking off for the line.

The Frenchman hesitated a second too long before deciding to chase and Cummings won by 2sec from Pinot, with Bardet another second further back.

Five minutes further down the climb, the peloton and overall favourites arrived, where hostilities were launched by Nairo Quintana.

Twice he accelerated clear with first reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali chasing him down.

However, the second time only Froome could match the Colombian’s pace and the Britain even snatched a second off Quintana in the sprint to the line.

The Colombian did at least move up to second overall at 3min 10sec as Tejay Van Garderen had been dropped further down the climb and lost 40sec to sit third at 3min 32sec.

Spaniards Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, as well as Nibali, all lost time to the lead pair as well.

Valverde is fourth at 4min 02sec with Contador up a place to fifth at 4min 23sec and Nibali also up a place to eighth at 8min 17sec. – Agence France-Presse

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