When Steve Cummings rode for Discovery Channel in 2007, he was in the service of Alberto Contador; ‘Bert’ told the Disco mechanic Allan Butler; “when you ask Cummings to ride on the front — he rides, I’d have him on my team any time!”
Praise doesn’t come much higher.
Cummings is the pro’s pro — not flash; just big, strong and tough. His first big result was winning the British junior road race championship in 1999; by 2004 he was an Olympic silver medallist in the team pursuit for GB.
He rode with no frills Belgian squad Landbouwkrediet for 2005 — the year he took a rainbow jersey in the team pursuit.
It was team pursuit Worlds silver and Commonwealth gold with Landbou in 2006; and in 2007 he went to work for Alberto at Disco — not much freedom to go for results there.
Barloworld was the name on the jersey for 2008 and it should have been his breakthrough year — he won a stage and was second on GC in the Tour of Reggio Calabria, won the Coppa Bernochi and was second on GC in the Tours of Denmark and Britain.
The following season should have built on the solid foundation of 2008 but as Cummings explained when he signed for Sky at the start of 2010;
‘The 2009 season started well, I was seventh in the Trofeo Laigueglia but after that, I went to South Africa for the Giro del Capo series of races.
“It took me until about August to recover from that — I was riding the Tour of the Med and it was 10 degrees, within 36 hours I was riding in South Africa with the temperature at 46 degrees; then 24 hours after The Cape it was back to 10/15 degrees at Tirreno.
“I had problems from then on with my muscles filling up with fluids — one thing I want to make clear is that I specifically asked the team not to send me to South Africa; I knew that I would have that problem under those circumstances.”
By the end of 2009 the word was that Cummings and Barloworld manager, Claudio Corti couldn’t be in the same room anymore.
The Sky was the limit in 2010 and he rode the hard kilometres in the Tour and Giro.
This year he started well with a stage win in the Tour of the Algarve; but lost three months mid-season due to illness.
The form returned as the season came to a close with second on GC again in the Tour of Britain, silver in the British elite time trial championship and fourth in the Tour of Beijing.
And of course, he was one of the stalwarts of Cav’s triumph in Copenhagen.
But despite these strong showings for Sky he has opted to go with ‘super team’ BMC for 2012.
We caught up with him just before he jetted off to the Far East to talk Cav, BMC and — Liverpool FC.
Copenhagen – you guys must have had 100% faith in Cav to work the way you did, what convinced you?
“Cav is the fastest sprinter in the world; the course was without difficulty so a big group sprint was possible.
“Together we made it happen.”
Skinsuits for 266 K – what’s the script with race food?
“We have pockets just like a normal jersey.
“In a race like that, the aero kit can give you 5-6% gain, it adds up to a lot over 266k!”
Did you manage a good celebration after the race?
“Huge, everyone was on a high – it went off!
“Some bits are a little blurry.
“I called G (Geraint Thomas) on the phone to see if he could shed some light on the hazy parts… he couldn’t remember much either!”
You’re obviously back to good health, again?
“Yes, it was a difficult time, physically and mentally, my wife and friends helped me through.”
What’s still to ride in 2012?
“The Tour of Beijing, then Lombardia, I hope – it will be difficult with the travel back from China but I would like to try, I really like the race.”
[Steve rode strongly in the Lombardia finale but Sky — like everyone else — was no match for Zaugg on the Villa Vergano.]
You must be a little sad to be moving on from Sky?
“Of course, I have good friends there; riders and staff – but I’m really excited to get started with BMC.”
The Algarve – you beat Tejay and Contador to win that stage — no easy task.
“I won because I’d had done a big preparation for the season during the winter.
“In the race, I never went into threshold except on the last climb – I timed my effort well.
“I was very happy to – win especially in this way, it was a reward for the work I had put in.”
Are you going to win the Tour of Britain, one day — after two second twice places?
“Ha! with my characteristics and so many stages finishing in sprints it’s not easy; but of course I’ll try.
“I like the race, its well organised, and having only six riders per team makes the racing aggressive, physically hard and exciting to watch.”
Will the GB TT champs be a goal for 2012?
“If it fits into the plan for the team and I can prepare properly and do a good job, then yes, for sure.
“I like the race; as soon as I got my TT bike I started training at least once a week on it.
“I enjoy time trialling.”
Why BMC — do you have an agent?
“I don’t have an agent.
“With Sky, I did fewer races than I would have liked, mainly because I was sick.
“I have a good relationship with Sciandri and when he asked if I was free to go to BMC, I said ‘yes.'”
Any familiar faces on the team?
“I was team mates with George Hincapie at Discovery Channel, where I first met Tejay – he was a junior on the USA team and they came to ride with us.
“Taylor Phinney lives close, we sometimes train together.”
Do you have a rough idea of your 2012 programme, yet?
And is Quarata still home, and will you stay there for the winter or go back to Liverpool?
“I stay in Quarata all the time.
‘It’s important to prepare properly, and I think the whole Tuscany package is ideal for a bike rider.”
Which liberties do you allow yourself in the winter?
“Three weeks off — I live a balanced life, I try to do everything in moderation all the time.
“It’s important to eat healthily and maintain a consistent weight.”
After all that time in Italy have you adopted an Italian football team or is it still ‘solo Liverpool.’
Daft question, really!