In a new feature, the Cyclingnews team pick their rider of the day from the Criterium du Dauphine. Steve Cummings is the stage 7 pick, and we will be selecting a rider after each stage.
In 2016, Steve Cummings has made a habit of highlighting a particular stage in the three WorldTour races he's started, Tirreno-Adriatico, Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco and now the Criterium du Dauphine, and pulling off a win from the breakaway. The Englishman's run can be traced back to his stage 14 Tour de France victory over Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet which appears to have given him a new found confidence and self-belief to add to his classy and intelligent riding style.
On stage 7, Cummings made his way into the 20-rider strong breakaway along with teammate Daniel Teklehaimanot, who successfully acquired the necessary points for the KOM classification, early in the 151km stage from Le-Pont-de-Claix to Superdévoluy. With Teklehaimanot's jersey secured for the second year running on the Côte de Saint-Laurent-du-Cros, Cummings decided to go it alone with over 50km remaining of the stage. Cummings found himself riding into a headwind on the Col de Moissière before a fast descent off the back of the category one climb that took him back towards the north, crossing the D14 which took the peloton south, before his ascent of the Col du Noyer.
While Cummings had several minutes advantage over the chasing peloton that included several riders looking to move up the overall standings, the 35-year-old's lead started to disappear on the 7.5km Col du Noyer with the battle for overall honours heating up behind but he remained calm to continue riding at his own tempo and had four minutes over the chasers.
The lead dipped down to just over three minutes on the Noyer descent but Cummings continued to focus on his race with little care for the GC antics behind, riding the finale like a pursuit into Superdévoluy with plenty of time to smile for the cameras and offer a modest victory celebration.
"It's getting harder and harder to win but I felt I had to try to force something. This is the day I picked out before race. I was just thinking that going in the break was good training for the Tour de France but I also knew that there wouldn't be many riders left and that the favourites would watch each other," Cummings explained post-stage.
Zeb Woodpower says: Since Cummings outwitted Bardet and Pinot atop the Mende airfield last year, he's strike ratet when it comes to winning from the breakaway can only be applauded. In the road stages since that Cummings has finished inside the top-ten, they've all been victories. In 2016, Cummings has won in Tirreno with a late attack inside the final three kilometres of stage 4 to catch the peloton off-guard, repeated the trick with just one kilometre left in stage 3 of Pais Vasco but it's his Dauphine win that really showcased his full ability.
Cummings identified the stage as one in which the GC men would be occupied by marking each other and riders in the breakaway would begin to suffer 'after the climb'. Considering his run of results, you could only sit back and enjoy the show of a rider who dares to take the race on with such panache and has a pedal stroke to die for. The next challenge for Cummings is repeating his Tour stage win where the peloton might be a little more hesitant in letting him go in a breakaway.