I’ve told it before but it’s worth telling again; my favourite Steve Cummings story – it’s 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.
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.
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 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.
Season 2013 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 hit the ground running with second overall in the Dubai Tour the warm up to his great ride in Southern France where he won the now defunct Tour of the Mediterranean.
And he’s at it again – this time beating no less a personage than Alejandro Valverde to win the Trofeo Andratx-Mirador d’Es Colomer, one of the Challenge Mallorca series of season openers.
VeloVeritas caught up with him a few days after his fine win to chat to him about it – and his move to MTN-Qhubeka for season 2015.
Great result, Steve – it must have been nice to be looking down at Valverde on the podium ?
“Yeah, thanks – on the big climb of the day, the Puig Major I felt super and from that point on, maybe 50 K to go, I was always in the top 10/20 riders; then going into the finish climb, the Mirador, I was in the first five or six.
“I waited and waited but attacked with a K to go; really committed and held off Valverde to win.”
How’s the health; you’re over that nasty Tour of Belgium crash ?
“The health is good; I want it to stay that way – and crash free, too!”
BMC to MTN ?
“I needed a change, a fresh challenge; I talked to Brian Smith and he was keen to get me on board.
“I live just 40 minutes from the team HQ in Lucca, the new Cervelos are really good and so are the ENVE wheels; the TT bikes are good too and so is the clothing.
“It’s a team on the up but at the same time there’s not a huge amount of pressure on you.”
And did you make the team trip to South Africa ?
“I did, I’ve been to South Africa in the past but never into the townships – it’s an eye opener.
“It makes you realise how fortunate you are to live in Europe.”
There were a lot of ‘chiefs’ at BMC …
“It’s nice to be on a big team but there are a lot less opportunities with having so many big names, normally you’re there to support them and your programme is built around theirs.
“If you have more opportunities then you’re more motivated; I’m not just talking about winning – I mean attacking, getting in breaks being there for the final.
“The standard on World Tour teams is so high that there’s always pressure there to perform – the atmosphere is very business-like.
“Here at MTN we have the chance to race differently, to be more aggressive – and that’s good because we all want to see aggressive racing.
“We practiced that In Mallorca, not just me, all of the guys were on the attack.”
Back to bikes, you’ve been on a BMC for three seasons and now ‘all change’ to Cervélo …
“Yes, big changes; frames, saddles, pedals – but like I said we’re lucky because the Cervelos are really nice bikes.
“We did a big measuring session at the training camp because when you change shoes and saddles it affects the saddle height and all that has to be taken into consideration when setting your new position.”
Landbou to MTN, Belgium to South Africa, that’s a long journey …
“Yes, but there are similarities, neither team’s the biggest so you have to be aggressive, get in the breaks, show the jersey.
“Having said that, the ‘feel’ here is that of a World Tour team even though we don’t have that kind of budget or the guaranteed programme you do at that level – that said we still have a good programme.
“I’m actually surprised at how good everything is with the team.”
Were you disappointed that the Tour of the Med was cancelled ?
“Yeah, but I’ll be riding the Ruta del Sol, there’s an eight kilometre time trial in there but I’ve not had a chance to study the parcours, yet – I’ll check it out when we get there.
“I had hoped that we’d get into the Criterium International too but we didn’t get the spot.
“My next race is the Classica Almeria then the Ruta; but before that I’ll be going home to England with my wife – she’s expecting our first child so there’s a lot going on …”
You started last season well, too …
“Apart from when I’ve been held back by injury I usually start the year well.
“If I’m at home I usually go well, I feel good, relax and enjoy my training – do it well.
“The thing about being based in Tuscany is that you don’t lose days to bad weather.
“I do two endurance days each week – sometimes I meet a group but usually on my own.
“It’s business, you’re out there to work, get the job done and get home – besides, I do I.T. work and it’s hard to fit that in if you’re in the company of other riders.”
What are the other goals for 2015 ?
“I’d like to win a big race at World Tour level – but I don’t know which one.
“I don’t want to race the cobbled Classics, I think I’d be much better riding Brabantse, the Fleche and Liege, races which suit me best.”
We have to mention that the MTN strip is dangerously close to the Newcastle United strip – and you being a confirmed Liverpool FC man …
“Well, if it was close to a Chelsea strip that would be a different matter – but Newcastle’s not so bad …”
We wish Steve ‘all the best’ with the birth of his child and for the coming season – definitely one of the ‘good guys.’