Steve Cummings took an opportunist victory at Tirreno-Adriatico in Foligno, taking advantage of Dimension Data’s numbers in the finale of the stage and the presence of Edvald Boasson Hagen in the front peloton.
Cummings confirmed that he was riding for the Norwegian when he sat on the late attack but could not resist going for victory in the final kilometres. The former team pursuit rider took alone and never looked back, winning alone, 13 seconds ahead of local resident Salvatore Puccio (Team Sky), who understandably banged his handlebars in frustration after finishing second.
“With three kilometres to go the win was served on a plate to me and so I took it,” Cummings explained in the past-stage press conference.
“We were riding for Edvald because he’s started off the season really strong but he hasn’t taken a big win yet. With 10km to go I was marking the other guys, acting as a policeman and closing the gaps to make sure nobody got away. I was fortunate the get in the move but I was not allowed to pull.”
“I’m really happy we won because the team was strong. We had two riders behind me who controlled things. It’s a great team victory.”
A team effort
Team manager Brian Smith agreed, explaining the team tactic that directeur sportif Roger Hammond called from the team car.
“Roger Hammond has to take credit for this win. He said to take it on and not wait to be attacked, do not ride negatively. We rode positively and we got the result,” Smith said happily at the Dimension Data team bus.
“The plan was for Edvald today but we said: Make sure you’re there in numbers and over the top we have to take the race on. We cannot wait to be attacked,” That’s what Steve and Natnael Berhane did. Steve looked at an opportunity, like last year at the Tour de France and took it. To get first and third against some of the best bike riders in the world is amazing for the whole team and has lifted us again. We’ve been unlucky in the last couple of days but to get a WorldTour win is fantastic.”
Smith was happy to sign Cummings to the African team in 2015 and was proud when he won the stage in the Tour de France to Monde ahead of Thibaut Pinot and Roman Bardet. Smith patiently allows Cummings to often ride at the back of the peloton during races because he knows he can have successful days when he rides aggressively and wins.
“Steve is a guy who rides at the back but he’s got a racing mind and he’s an artist and he goes and wins too,” Smith said. “He’s a key part of the team but he does his own thing. When he does things like today, it makes you think: ‘We’ll let you off a little bit.’”
“Steve knows when he’s on form. He and Edvald are sharing a room and he told me that Steve was on form, that he was good. I’m glad he took his opportunity and he did that he did.”
A boost of confidence
Cummings has endured a difficult road racing career and has often clashed with the more rigid rules and ways of racing in his former teams. He seems to have his niche and place in Dimension Data and is growing in confidence.
“Every victory makes you more confident and you look at yourself and say: ‘I did that.’ Winning takes away the pressure and the big wins help keep you calm in the finale, which is what you need to win,” he said.
“Winning is everything. It’s made my career in the last two years. Winning is why I race the bike. I’m very grateful to the team because they give me my freedom. They get a bit stressed if I’m at back but I tell them to stay cool. It’s risky to ride at the front too because they they always crash.”
Cummings will turn 35 on March 19, the date of this year’s Milan-San Remo. Dimension Data have Boasson and Mark Cavendish for the first monument Classic of the year but Cummings could also play a vital role, perhaps attacking in the finale or helping his teammates. However he is no totally convinced of the idea.
“I’m not sure about Milan-San Remo at the moment,” he said. I missed races in February due to bronchitis and in the first few days here I was struggling to find my rhythm. I found it today but it was a surprise. I’ll either do Milan-San Remo or the Tour of the Basque Country, the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.”
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