Steve Cummings, he’s the real deal.
Dues fully paid at low budget Landbouwkrediet and Barloworld, he’s also ridden with some of the biggest teams in the sport; Discovery, Sky and BMC – before finding what is the ideal squad for him, Dimension Data where letting him ‘do his own thing’ has paid off for both parties in spades.
Back in his Disco days, Alberto Contador once said he’d have Cummings in his team any day of the week.
British champion on road and track, Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Olympic Games silver medallist, Italian semi-classic winner, stage race winner and stage winner in the likes of the Basque Country, Dauphine and Tirreno; not to mention Grand Tour stage winner – and still the same humble, grounded, approachable man he’s always been.
Unfortunately Cummings suffered a fractured collarbone, scapula and sternum in a bad crash on stage four of the Tour of the Basque Country back in the spring.
Not many could say they won their first race back after a spill like that – especially when they had to beat a man like Movistar’s specialist ‘chronoman’ Alex Dowsett to do it.
But here’s what British Elite Time Trial Champion 2017, Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) had to say to VeloVeritas shortly after his victory.
Congratulations, Steve – the big questions first, did you have Manx kippers for breakfast on the day?
“No, I always stick to what I know – but I certainly saw them on the menu this morning.”
Your first race back after the crash?
“Yeah, I’m in not bad shape but maybe only 90% of my best – I’m sure that in two or three weeks I’ll be back to my best; I’m at stage in my recovery where I know I can build on the good base I have.”
What was the parcours like?
“Up or down all the time, a typically British ‘sporting’ course.
“There were no ‘proper’ climbs but the drags were long and you had to work hard on the downhill stretches too where normally you’d be looking for some recovery.”
And on your usual Cervelo TT rig?
“Yeah, just as it was set up for the Basque Country, I had 56 x 11 top and 42 x 25 – or it maybe a 23 ? – bottom, and I needed it!
“I was on Continental tyres.
“I actually dropped my chain at one point, it’s a big jump, 42 to 56 but I was lucky not to have to stop, I managed to get it back on – it was at a bad spot where you should be trying to carry speed, not lose it.
“If I’d lost by a couple of seconds due to that I’d have been very disappointed.”
Did you have any team personnel with you?
“No, I just flew in with my bikes – it was only certain for the last few days that I’d be riding, a last minute thing.”
Were you getting time checks on anyone?
“No, I was off early – I was finishing more or less as Alex Dowsett was just getting under way.”
How did you judge your pace?
“I use everything, power, heart rate and ‘feel.’
“The day before I did 25 minutes at a power I reckoned I could handle for the duration on Wednesday and it worked out perfectly.
“It wasn’t the kind of course which wasn’t about ‘flat power’ you were doing 60 kph downhill so you can’t get the power down but then you have to go over threshold on the climbs.
“I was aggressive on the climbs without over-cooking it; I tried to surge over the little rises.
“Ultimately it’s about feel though – I guess if I’d been getting time checks on someone and it was close I may have been able to get a more out.”
It must have seemed like a long wait to see if you’d bested Dowsett’s time?
“I kept hearing that Dowsett was eight seconds up on me but I knew that I’d finished strongly.
“I lost a bit of time in the corners, I was cautious, not so much that you’re scared after the crash just that you’re race rusty.
“I was riding to the podium – I was going to be in at least second place – when I heard the announcement that I’d beaten Alex by eight seconds.”
When will you get to air your nice new British Champion’s skinsuit?
“Hopefully in Dusseldorf next Saturday – stage one of the Tour de France – the team will be finalised after the national road race championships on Sunday.
“I’m not at 100% so don’t believe I have the condition to win the road race – it’ll be perhaps another 10 days before I come into my best shape.”
Going back to that awful crash in the Basque Country, what happened?
“The road suddenly went from three lanes down to one; it was messy with traffic and bollards all over the place.
“There was a big crash in front of me and nowhere where for me to go, I crashed into the bollards and came down heavily on my shoulder.”
There were complications to your recuperation though?
“I had my first operation in Cologne and things went well – I was thinking I’d be back in action at the Dauphine.
“But I slipped and fell at home and didn’t realise that I’d knocked my scapula out of line.
“It wasn’t until 10 days after that it was discovered that the joint was ‘stepped’ – when I’d gone in for a check up x-ray.
“They had to re-break and re-set the joint; that’s a much more difficult procedure than dealing with a broken collarbone.
“The collar bone is dealt with from the surface but they have to go in through your back to get to the scapula.”
It must have been a difficult time for you?
“Whilst it was nice to spend time with my family, there was a lot of frustration – and pain.
“I was on pain killers for 10 days – I’m not into taking things like that but I had to, I couldn’t move, couldn’t sleep.
“But they do take you out of yourself – you’re just ’not with it at all.’
“Day to day you don’t notice any improvement but after a week or so you think; “well, I couldn’t have managed to do that a week ago.”
“I mean, I couldn’t load the dish washer or hold our baby.
“When I got back on the bike it was a shock, I felt so unfit.
“I have aches and pains still but the doctor reckons it’ll be about another six weeks before I’m at a stage where it’s as good as it gets.”
What’s the goal now?
“Carry on recovering, have a good Tour, get the belief back and go for a stage win.”
VeloVeritas wishes Steve well and will be there for his prime ‘stage hunts’ from 10 through to 15.