By his own admission this season’s results have been below expectations but Steve Cummings his confident that after a break from racing he can showcase his improving form at the Criterium du Dauphine and secure a Tour de France spot with Dimension Data.
Cummings, 37, has not raced since abandoning the Tour de Romandie in April due to allergies. The Swiss race brought down the curtain on a disappointing spring campaign in which both rider and team struggled for results, but with the Dauphine just days away Cummings believes that he has regained his health, and his mojo.
“At the moment, I’m more interested in performance. I’ve not performed all year, and that’s me saying that. I’ve not reached my capabilities and I’m just hoping that I can perform. If I perform well then results will follow,” Cummings told Cyclingnews before heading to France.
Part of Cummings’ disappointing spring could be down to his change in race programme. With Dimension Data looking to embark on a number of goals this year, including the hunt for WorldTour points, Cummings was given a new race calendar. The team was hoping that he could be one of the main driving forces in securing points but not all change leads to immediate success. A number of the team’s riders, not just Cummings, have struggled with health and bad luck this year, while the team has also looked to once again take on the responsibility of developing raw talent from Africa. With so many injuries and securing rider visas a constant battle for the team, several riders including Cummings has been asked to fill gaps in rosters.
“Romandie didn’t set me back but it was never really a race on my programme. I had to do it because the team was stretched and to have the allergy problem was tough on me mentally after what had happened in the spring. It never rains, it pours,” Cummings said.
“I think that the team was a little bit worried about WorldTour points at the start of the year. They were trying to maximise the group and thought that it would be better for me to do some other races. I thought it might be a risk, in that why change something if it’s not broken. I’m not a young rider and over the years I’ve found a programme that suits me. But I can understand that the team needs WorldTour points.”
The break between the end of April and June has allowed Cummings to gain both perspective and his true form. Several other riders including Mark Cavendish and Edvald Boasson Hagen are also back in training and gearing up for a huge summer of racing. Along with the Dauphine, the Dimension Data squad are hoping to reignite their season with strong showings at the Tour de Suisse and of course the Tour de France, where they have enjoyed huge success in the past.
At 37 Cummings is well aware that he is closer to the end of his career than the start. During his mini-break from the action he began to ponder a life after competitive cycling and while he has no firm plans beyond his 2018-19 contract with Dimension Data, the time away from racing has helped him rediscover his motivation after a difficult few months.
“I didn’t enjoy spring at all. After Romandie, I really didn’t enjoy that next week. I spent a lot of time thinking about life after cycling and what I would do next. I’m still thinking and I need to have a plan but now I feel a lot better. I’ve put things in perspective because sometimes you can get caught up in the cycling bubble. I know I can’t go on forever and this has been the first time I’ve really thought about what I want to do after cycling, and at the same time, that’s given me an appreciation for what I want to do now. I’ve asked myself if I still really want to do this and the answer has been yes. I want to maximise what time I have left and I don’t want to put a date on it. I’m quite happy now though because I’ve maximized every day I’ve had since then.”
“I think that a big change for me over the years has been with having a family. I don’t want to be as selfish as I was a few years ago. I want my family to be happy as well. I think that having a family has helped me make cycling less intense. It’s hard to explain but I think my priorities have changed over time but I’ve still kept a high level. If spring was a bit of a wobble, then I feel on track again and I’m looking forward to the Dauphine and the opportunities that I have left.”
Cummings won a stage in the Dauphine in 2016 before going on to win the second of his two Tour de France stages that summer. Of course, a repeat of that Dauphine success would go a long way to improving the team’s win tally for the season, but Cummings is aware that he needs to concentrate on his performance first and foremost.
“Things are looking a lot better than they were a few weeks ago. I’ve still got a bit more form to find but I’m better mentally, and physically I’m getting to where I need to be right now,” he said.
Last year Cummings only secured his Tour spot thanks to a quality outing at the British nationals in which he won both the road race and the time trial. The veteran rider is under no illusion that despite the team’s slow start to the year he has not done enough to ensure he has a spot for the Tour team in July.
“Everyone has to fight for their place at the Tour. I’m no different to anyone else in that sense but I’m moving forward and I know that I need to be in the ballpark for the Dauphine, otherwise I wouldn’t pick me for the Tour either. I need to be at a point where I can show my condition because there’s only so much time left between now and the Tour.”
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