Stephen Cummings (BMC) has started his 2014 campaign with a bang as the 33-year-old Briton won the time trial stage yesterday and then the general classification today at the Tour Méditerranéen - the first overall stage race victory in his 10 years as a professional.
The Tour Méditerranéen victory comes one week after Cummings placed second overall at the inaugural Dubai Tour where he finished runner-up to teammate Taylor Phinney both in the opening stage time trial as well as the final general classification.
Cummings had originally only had designs on the penultimate stage time trial at Tour Méditerranéen, but after finishing in the lead group in each of the previous road stages general classification ambitions became an option.
"I thought I could do a good GC, but was looking more to the time trial and taking things day-by-day," said Cummings. "But I kept staying in the front and then the time trial was great."
Cummings won a hilly 18.2km time trial on Saturday afternoon which put him into the leader's jersey, previously held by John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) who had won all three stages prior to the time trial. Cummings had a strong team to defend the jersey on the final stage, but the 192.7km concluding stage from Bandol to Toulon was anything but a processional as it finished with a 6km climb of Mont Faron.
Fourteen riders started the stage within one minute of Cummings' general classification lead, with Riccardo Zoidl (Trek Factory Racing) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) the closest at four seconds and 10 seconds respectively.
Also very much in the mix was Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale), who started the day 15 seconds back and was the winner of the Mont Faron stage the previous year.
Peraud would ultimately win solo on Mont Faron again, but Cummings limited his losses to 11 seconds to secure the overall win by four seconds over the Frenchman, who also placed second overall for the second straight year.
"It was so close, I went way over my limit," Cummings said. "I just did my best and luckily it was good enough. It was great for everything to fall into place. In the past, I have had form like this – or better – and something has gone wrong: I have had a crash or been sick. It has never come out properly. So it is nice to have it work out."
Cummings, in his third year at BMC after stints at Sky, Barloworld, Discovery Channel and Landbouwkrediet, cited changes in management at BMC as providing a new spark to his career.
"I've been like this for a few years but maybe I wasn't in the right races or I didn't have the correct program," said Cummings. "We've had a bit of a change of management and they're putting me in more races suited to me which is good. It's given me a new motivation."
Cummings continues a race program in France with Tour Cycliste International du Haut Var-matin (February 22-23) up next, followed by Paris-Nice (March 9-16) and Circuit Cycliste Sarthe (April 8-11).