Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings, he’s got the T-shirt and the DVD.
He’s ridden low budget with Landbou and Barlo; mega budget with Discovery, Sky and BMC.
He’s been a world champion on the track – the team pursuit in 2005 and an Olympic medallist in the same discipline in 2004.
He’s a stage race winner in the Tour of the Mediterranean; a semi-classic winner in the Coppa Bernocchi and a stage winner in the Giro della Reggio Calabria, Tour of the Algarve, Vuelta, Tour de France, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of the Basque Country and Dauphine.
Those last three all came earlier this year and last weekend he added another beautiful Tour de France stage to his palmarès.
It was classic Cummings, pick the stage for the move – hiding in the ones that don’t suit his template – infiltrate the break of the day, go with the key move when the break brings to splinter, go solo a ways from the finish then win in solitary splendour, leaving some of the sport’s biggest names in his wake.
With the ink barely dry on the finishing sheets for Wednesday’s Stage 11 mad blast into Montpelier, VeloVeritas spoke to Steve about his Tour thus far and of course, his magnificent Stage Seven win.
Congratulations on the stage win, Steve – you’d have selected that one beforehand?
“Yeah, we earmarked a few and that was one of them, I thought it would be a good one for me – even with the Col d’Aspin at the end, it’s not a super steep climb at five percent and from tests we did at the Dauphine I knew that was within my capabilities.”
It’s still a beast though, how do you gauge the effort?
“On feel and also on heart rate, it’s a 40 minute effort so you have to get it right.”
On the subject of heart rate, how was it on that final decent?
“I was actually pretty calm, if you have a minute advantage then it’s pretty well done.
“I kept to the middle of the road and was careful though – on some of the corners the tar was melting.”
You had plenty of time to savour the win, then?
“It was the same with the Dauphine stage win, I had even more lead there but yeah, it’s nice to be able to enjoy the last few hundred metres and take in the massive roar from the crowd.”
I’ve never seen you as emotional at the finish.
“The Tour brings that out in you, it’s fairy tale stuff.
“It’s such a big show, there’s so much pressure and when you win it’s such a relief like a release valve.”
Did you have much of a celebration after?
“We allowed ourselves a small glass of champagne; but because you haven’t touched alcohol for so long you feel it straight away – one glass is enough!”
Less glam – you had hailstones bouncing off your helmet en route Andorra?
“That was savage – one minute it was baking at 41 degrees then it went down to 10 degrees.
“I wasn’t too bad because we were climbing, it would have been horrible if we’d had a descent in it.
“Maybe it’s because I’m leaner than I’ve ever been I feel the cold more – or maybe I’m just getting old?”
Has Cav’s brilliant form surprised you and the team?
“He said himself that he didn’t know what to expect coming into the Tour with the preparation he’d done; with his track work it wasn’t the traditional approach to the race – but it’s certainly been effective.”
Do you think that the ‘relaxed’ nature of the sprint stages has helped him?
“It’s not been the sprint finishes of recent years; more harping back to the classic bunch finishes of a few years ago – I think they’ve been good.”
There’s been a few instances of daft fans getting in the way of the riders, how have you found it?
“So far, I’ve found the crowds pretty well behaved; the crowds in the early stages weren’t the biggest – maybe because Normandie’s not the easiest part of France to get to?
“There were crowds at the top of the Aspin on the stage I won though – I did notice that.”
What do you think of the stages where the parcours goes straight into a climb, like yesterday?
“Especially when you climb for 22 K from the off – that was tough on Tuesday coming straight after the rest day.
“Everyone is fighting to get in the break so the GC guys get concerned about who’s going up the road – crazy, a bit like riding a hill climb.”
And how about the downhill finishes?
“I think they’re good – they mix it up a little, make it more interesting so you don’t have the same predictable mountain top finishes.”
How was today’s stage into Montpelier – it looked mad?
“The worst ever, I hate stages like that.
“Everyone wants to be at the front so they take risks, pushing and shoving to get up there – really physical but there’s just not enough room for everyone in front.
“It’s not super hard from the speed point of view but racing in a cross/tailwind is like being part of a big elastic band which when you stretch it too far just snaps.”
And has Froome won the Tour already?
“No, I don’t think so.
“It’s wide open, still – so close.
“No one has really gone bonkers on a climb yet but I do think Chris will put time into Quintana in the two time trials.
“In my opinion it’ll all come down to the climb of the Joux-Plane on the last stage before Paris.”
And that’s from a man who knows.
We’ll be catching up with Steve again on the second and final rest day.