Double British national champion Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) is in the dark concerning selection for this year's World Championships in Norway, telling Cyclingnews that he has had no contact with British Cycling this season and that he has been left off their performance programme.
Cummings won both the time trial and road race at the national championships last week, proving his fitness and form ahead of the Tour de France, where he will be looking for a third stage win in as many years. The 36-year-old had endured a difficult start to this campaign, crashing twice in quick succession during the spring and undergoing surgery on an injured shoulder.
His double win at the nationals ensured that he was handed a spot on Dimension Data's Tour de France team, and arguably Britain's best one-day rider over the last 18 months is keen to find out where he stands for the World Championships. The UCI's marquee event takes place in Norway this autumn and the rolling parcours suits Cummings' style of racing.
"For this course this year we have a lot of possibilities so it's about getting the best out of the riders and using them in the right way," Cummings told Cyclingnews before his Wednesday training ride and late evening flight to Germany ahead of Saturday's Grand Depart in Dusseldorf.
"It's about being open to different tactics and being prepared to lose in order to win. Selection is hard, I'll say that, and it comes down to opinion in the end."
That said, Cummings' relationship with British Cycling has, at times, been frosty, particularly when it has come to their selection process for major events. He was initially left out of the Olympic road race team in 2016 before the selectors changed their minds after the former BMC and Team Sky rider won solo at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France.
"I never really understand British Cycling. They've removed me from the performance programme this year and I've had no contact about the World Championships. I don't know if they think it's because I'll be too old for Tokyo in 2020, but I always feel like I'm a bit of an afterthought," Cummings said.
"If you ask me if I'd want to do the Worlds, then I would, but my mind isn't on that right now because of the Tour, but also because I have no dialogue with British Cycling. I don't even know if I'm in their thoughts. Until there's that dialogue it's hard for me to say that I definitely want to do it. I just feel that the next step I need to take is to win a big one-day race."
Finding his rhythm at the Tour
While Cummings will no doubt discover his fate for the Worlds at some point later this summer, his immediate attention is on the Tour de France.
Dimension Data have put their faith in the 36-year-old and Mark Cavendish. The pair won five stages between them in 2017 but both riders are short of racing miles. Cummings has fewer than 20 days on the clock in 2017 but his rides in the nationals were a strong indication that he is on course for another good July.
So many factors, including luck, come into play for riders who, like Cummings, hunt stages in the mountains and intermediate days, but his numbers are moving in the right direction.
"The performances haven't changed in the sense that those rides at nationals just backed up what we already knew in training," he said.
"The team wanted me to race but a one-day and time trial are quite different to a Grand Tour. I was confident before but I knew that going into the Tour that I wouldn't be in top form for the first ten days and would then improve. I think I'm a little ahead of where I thought I was but it's difficult to really say."
"Training in 30 degrees, your power is a little bit suppressed because the human body can't put out the same watts if it's colder. I knew that I was in the ballpark for my form –the weight was good, the power was good and I wasn't really stressed. The idea is now that I'll go into the Tour, and it will be quite hard in the first few days because I've not raced at that level for a while, but that once I find my rhythm I'll be fine"
If the plan for Cummings is to find his feet in the opening ten days of racing then the second half of the Tour should provide a more generous selection of opportunities.
"There are chances for sure. People will get tired in the race and it will get stretched and stressed. That creates an opportunity for me but there's also a feeling you get when you're in the race – maybe at the start in the morning – when you just know it's going to be an important day. I'm not super focused on stages, though. Not at the moment. I've just been concentrating on getting my shape right. There are a lot of possible stages but I wouldn't want to pick one in particular.
"I don't think about it that way. I just have to think about giving my best, putting it all on the line and if it's good enough, then great. If it's not, then I've got nothing to lose because I've not had the best preparation. I've got to go and enjoy it really, and not put too much pressure on myself."
While his chances of riding Worlds and winning a Tour stage remain unclear, one certainty is that Cummings will wear the British national jersey in both the road stages and time trials at this year's Tour de France. He has confirmed he will wear black shorts with the mostly white jersey after a social media poll called for him to stay with a traditional look.
"I feel pretty good and pretty happy now. I get to put that jersey on every day for an entire year. Now I've got both, too, so I don't have to remember to change for a road race or time trial. I just have to wear a white jersey so there's no way I can mess it up," he said.