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Steve Cummings – “I pick stages that are physically demanding”


Steve Cummings? He’s the real deal; a world champion on the track in the team pursuit; he paid his dues with Landbouwkrediet and Barloworld; rode for the ‘mega’ teams, Discovery, Sky, BMC; was part of that famous team which carried Cav to a rainbow jersey in Copenhagen but now he’s found his true niche – with South African squad Dimension Data.

Last year the team raced as MTN-Qhubeka with Cummings netting a brilliant stage win in le Tour; this year the squad, with new sponsors has taken Cav on board and moved up to the World Tour.

And the big man from the Wirral has just taken his third major stage win of season 2016, in the Critérium du Dauphiné, to go with his wins in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Basque Country.

Steve Cummings
Steve takes the last stage of the Dauphiné. Photo©ASO

Talk us through your latest big win, please Steve.

“I wanted a stage in Dauphiné.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, or when, or if I would even get a chance.

“The shape was good, I felt the last three stages suited me best, particularly the final stage, and I gave it everything at the start to be in the break.

“With an uphill start like we had, only riders with decent legs can be in the break. Once we were in the break it was a good combination except Etixx where missing, so they started to chase behind.

“Gallopin attacked on the downhill before the first 1st category climb, and I thought I would have more chance if I went with him. He is strong and a group of 20 riders is a bit big for a good cooperation, someone always wants to do less than the other.

“I attacked one or two K before the first 1st cat. climb, caught Gallopin and when he hit the climb, I dropped him almost straight away, and decided to go alone was my best chance.

“I was hoping someone would come from behind to share the work. But nobody came, so I continued.”

You’ve had three top line wins this year, which one gave you most satisfaction and why?

“All different, physically, you could say the stage in the Dauphiné was the strongest.

“Tactically, you could say the stage in Tirreno was the best.

“And stages in Pays Basque are difficult to come by, riders attacking inside the last K are rare.

“They were all special and I took big satisfaction from each of them.”

What makes a ‘Stevie Stage’ – how do you pick these special days?

“It has to be a hard stage where you can make the difference with horsepower.

“But not as hard as the ‘GC’ days – somewhere inbetween there is always a chance.”

Aren’t you a ‘marked man’ – doesn’t half the peloton try to go with you?

“I pick stages that are physically demanding, when you can use the legs and head to make the difference – if they want to follow, they must be strong.”

Steve Cummings
To follow Steve, you must be strong. Photo©Dimension Data

When you’re ‘off duty’ you spend a lot of time way back the peloton – why’s that?

“Because I’m off duty.

“Going from A to B.

“I can’t win a bunch sprint, in fact I feel like I’m in the way, I also feel whatever I do to try and help in a bunch sprint would not change the final outcome.

“I can help earlier on, pull breakaways back, and I’m happy to do that, but when it gets risky, I can’t justify taking those risks.

“So I stay out the way and wait for a time when I can make difference to the outcome of a race, whether that be for me or for a team mate.

“Cycling is a very dangerous sport, you can’t eliminate the risk, but you can reduce the risk of crashing, which is what I try to do.”

Do you have total freedom within the team to race as you chose?

“Total freedom? Sometimes they do ask me to do something…

“It’s clear what I can do and what I can’t.

“So no, I’m not ‘totally free’.”

Tell us about the ‘mega’ chain you rode – and what about over size jockey rollers, do you run them and are all your bearings ceramic now?

CeramicSpeed organise everything, I tried the chain last year.

“Some riders like it, other riders don’t. I think we use pretty much all ceramic bearings.”

Am I right in saying you always ride in a skinsuit; the watts ‘add up’ in your book, don’t they?

“I never actually ride a skinsuit unless it’s a time trial.

“Yes, of course watts add up but you also need to be comfortable and cool – it’s a balance.”

Once you’ve made your move how do you gauge the effort?

“Experience, feeling, understanding of where to put the power down to save more time and when to throttle back to save more energy.”

Steve Cummings
Steve works very hard to be in the best condition he can. Photo©Dimension Data

You’re looking leaner than ever – is that another deliberate strategy?

“Of course, a cyclist needs to be very fit, very strong and very lean.

“There are no secrets, just hard work and dedication.”

This has to be the best phase of your career – why now?

“I have freedom.

“No one tries to control me. No one thinks they know me better than I know myself.

“Basically, the team trust me and let me get on with my work with no stress. In the past time away has hurt me, I need to be at home as much as possible to be happy, then I can train and prepare optimally and be mentally fresh at the races.

“In terms of racing, I’m allowed to focus on quality, not quantity.

“Mind you, by the end of the season, I will probably have quantity as well.”

What’s the programme now?

“The Tour, the Vuelta… maybe San Sebastian… then we’ll have to see…”

Check out the on-board footage of  the Dauphiné’s Stage 7, from the organiser’s YouTube channel.

The Worlds must be on your agenda – can Cav do it again?

“I’m not thinking about the World’s at the moment; but of course Cav can do it again.”

We have to ask a soccer question – who’s your favourite for the Euros?

“I don’t follow international football; I support two teams, Liverpool and Liverpool Reserves.”

And finally, how’s the scooter running?

“I haven’t used it since the baby was born!

“But it’s a Vespa, so it will probably start first time.

“Maybe I will take one to the UK, I may get a chance to use it there.”

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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