My favourite Steve Cummings story is the one where he’s in a Tour of Britain breakaway with Dan Fleeman; ‘the only reason I went through was to get a rest, it was easier out in the wind than it was on his wheel!‘ our Dan told us.
And all that power has finally landed him a stage race win, the Tour of the Mediterranean – he won the stage 3b time trial to go top on GC then hung on to his lead on the nasty slopes of Mont Faron to beat AG2R hard man, Jean-Christophe Peraud to the overall honours.
It was 15 years ago when the big man from Liverpool won the British Junior Road race Championship and five years later when he landed Olympic silver in the team pursuit.
And that was the discipline where he became world champion in 2005 whilst paying his dues with Belgian low budget but big hitting squad, Landbouwkrediet.
He was still in the Flatlands for 2006 the year he became Commonwealth Team Pursuit Champion with a Worlds silver to go with it.
But significantly, from a road point of view it was the year he took runner up spot to Alessandro Ballan in the prestigious Italian semi-classic the Trofeo Laigueglia.
Discovery was the name on the jersey for 2007 with a Giro ride and World Cup team pursuit wins on his roll of honour.
It was South African forklift truck team Barloworld for 2008 and Cummings enjoyed an excellent season; a stage win and second on GC in the Giro Dello Reggio Calabria, second on GC in the Tours of Denmark and Britain and victory in the Italian semi-classic the Coppa Bernocchi.
But 2009 was compromised by having to fly from sunny Cape Town – where he enjoyed a win – to freezing Europe and being given no time to ease the fluids from jet lagged muscles before being fired into a tough race programme.
David Brailsford’s Sky took him to the Giro and Tour in 2010 and he stayed with them for 2011 to take a stage win in the Tour of the Algarve and runner-up spots in the British Time Trial Championship and national tour.
The following season 2012 saw him in the red and black of BMC and despite some nasty crashes he rode the Tour de France and Vuelta – where he delivered a magnificent stage win.
Capitalising on that late season form he also took a stage in the Tour of Beijing.
Last season saw him in the Giro in the service of Cadel Evans as well as sharing in BMC’s TTT win in the Tour of Qatar.
For season 2014 he’s hit the ground running with second overall in the Dubai Tour the warm up to his great ride in Southern France.
We spoke to him a day or two after his triumph.
Second in Reggio Calabria, Denmark, Britain (twice, I think) and Dubai – a GC win at last… joy? relief? satisfaction?
“For sure, only satisfaction.
“If you keep trying and trying, eventually the reward comes.”
Your TT bike position looks well sorted but do you have any problems with the UCI regulations to get the position you want?
“No, we went in the wind tunnel last year in Milano; you have to get as aero as possible whilst making sure the position is rideable and you’re within the rules.
“The position feels good; I train once a week for three hours in that position, maybe that makes a difference.”
Was the Med TT and GC a target going into the race?
“The target was the time trial and preparing for the races which are coming up. We went day by day, tried not to lose time and then give 100% in the TT.
“I hoped I would win it – but you never know.
“The GC was in the back of my mind, I was top ten a few years ago, so it was realistic.”
Zoidl in second spot was a bit of a surprise – not one of the usual ‘chrono suspects.’
“I don’t know him; I know he won the Tour of Austria last year so he obviously has a big engine and a lot of talent.”
Was Peraud the danger man for you before the last stage?
“I didn’t think about anyone else until the last two K; he was the danger man at that point.
“I let him go and used my team to keep the high tempo, I was never too concerned. I basically rode a TT up the final climb and I knew roughly what I could do so I just delivered that.
“If I had messed around and started jumping around at the bottom the result may have been different – I rode to my strengths.”
It looked like you went deep on the Faron?
“I did – very deep, but sometimes that’s what it takes to win races.”
What did Raymond Poulidor have to say – it must be nice to be congratulated by a living legend?
“I don’t speak French he just said congratulations, smiled and shook my hand.”
It’s a big trophy for the mantelpiece…
“Yes, I need a new mantelpiece!”
Dubai – TT on a road bike, what was that like?
“It was perfect for me.
“I like to do a TT on the road bike.
“The BMC TMR bike is super fast; it has to be one of the fastest aero bikes around.”
Is at least one ‘desert race’ a ‘must’ as part of a World Tour pro’s preparation, now?
“Obviously the weather is great there, and the hotels are good.
“Personally, if the weather is kind in Europe I prefer European races.
“But yes, there are now three stage races in the desert and I guess most pro’s do at least one.”
Did you do much specific TT training over the winter?
“Yes, normally I train once a week on the TT bike; I’ve done that for the last four or five years.”
How did the winter training go – did you stay in Tuscany for the duration?
“I stayed in Tuscany as much as I could; I prefer to train here.
“Sometimes I went with the team to Spain which was nice.
“Overall it went very well, I didn’t miss a day, I was healthy, and calm.”
Have all the aches and pains from 2012 gone?
There seems to be a fresh very positive ‘vibe’ within BMC for 2014 and morale must be high with the Dubai and Med wins?
“I think we’ve got off to a great start.
“But we need to carry on; Paris-Nice and Tirreno are very important for BMC.”
What’s the programme now?
“I have Paris-Nice, Waregem, Circuit de la Sarthe, the Flèche and Liege.”
And the serious question last – Liverpool FC; 4th in the Championship, 4 points off the lead – are you happy with that situation?
“I’m very happy, they play nice football and everyone is motivated and giving 100%, it’s great to watch.
“Brendan Rodgers is doing a great job.”
You can take the man out of Liverpool but not Liverpool out of the man – and we’ve a feeling we’ll be talking to Steve again this season.
With thanks to Steve for his time and patience, and to Sean Weide, BMC’s Press Officer, for his assistance.