Stephen Cummings will be 36 when his current contract with Dimension Data runs out at the end of the 2017 season, but he has no plans to hang up his racing wheels just yet. Cummings has been professional for over a decade and says he will continue as long as he feels capable.
"It would be crazy to stop now because it's the best time in my career," Cummings told Cyclingnews. "You also see riders retiring when they're five years older than me. In my mind, when I was young, I always thought I'd be retired by 38, but I don't know. I'm getting quite close to that now, and I'm feeling better than I ever have. I don't want to put a number on it."
"As long as I enjoy it and I have the freedom, or I can still do a job for someone then I'd like to continue. As long as I'm happy and my family is happy as well; there are a few factors, but I'm certainly not thinking about stopping in the immediate future."
Cummings has enjoyed a bumper couple of years since joining the Dimension Data (MTN-Qhubeka as it was then) for the 2015 season, taking two stage victories at the Tour de France, a win at Tirreno-Adriatico, among others. He believes that the move to the South African squad has been good for him and he wants to remain with the team beyond his current deal.
"They made me free and the more freedom I've had, the better I've done. It's clear that’s a good way to work with me. I'm grateful for the chance and the opportunity that they've given me," said Cummings. "I love the team. I've had great success here, and I'd like to keep going with them. I just like the freedom and what the team stands for."
The race for the WorldTour
While Cummings seems certain about his own future, it isn't that long ago that Dimension Data's future was not so secure. It was just over two weeks ago that the team's WorldTour status was confirmed after protracted discussions with the UCI about the number of teams that would be given licences for the 2016 season.
The uncertainty made for an uncomfortable wait, and while Cummings wasn't worried about riding at Professional Continental level, there was some concern about what the drop would mean for the team's sponsors.
"Not being WorldTour wasn't much of a concern [for me] because there's a lot of WorldTour races that I don't even like, so that wasn't a concern," said Cummings. "It was more the consequences of not being WorldTour for the sponsors. If the sponsors took the budget down because of it, then that could have an effect."
Cummings stopped short of laying blame for the delays at anyone's door but told Cyclingnews that better communication was needed in order to protect the sponsors that come into the sport.
"They've [the UCI] got their reasons why they have to announce it then, but it's not ideal," he said.
"I'm sure that everyone is doing the best job to make it the best that they could. It's just people have different ideas about what is best for cycling. But I think what is best is taking care of the sponsors and trying to encourage sponsors to stay in the sport and make a healthy sport. We need communication between everyone."
He added that a different points system, one that was not skewed towards the teams targeting general classification was needed.
"In the end, we are WorldTour, I think that the points system needs looking at. It's set up to favour the GC teams, and that's not what we're about. Then it comes down to budget and who can buy the best riders. I think that takes the romance out of cycling a bit. I think they could do something about that."
Goals for 2017
As for what next year holds for Cummings, he’s got a lot to do if he wants to topple his 2016 season. Not a sprinter, a climber or an out and out time trialist, Cummings has carved out a niche as a breakaway specialist. He has done that to good effect in recent times, and he’s keeping mum on his goals as he looks to utilise the element of surprise to try and beat this year’s haul.
"I'll forget about this year, first and foremost and target specific periods of the year," he said.
"I'll try to focus on being in the best shape in those periods of the year. I don't like to say I want to win that race or that race but you can probably guess what I'd like to win. I'm not going to change anything, I'm not going to start targeting GC. I'm going to keep things to myself because of the element of surprise."
"If I can only win in one way then if you say you want to win a specific race then you become a marked man, and it becomes difficult. I just want to do something that people don't expect."
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Born in Ireland to a cycling family and later moved to the Isle of Man, so there was no surprise when I got into the sport. Studied sports journalism at university before going on to do a Masters in sports broadcast. After university I spent three months interning at Eurosport, where I covered the Tour de France. In 2012 I started at Procycling Magazine, before becoming the deputy editor of Procycling Week. I then joined Cyclingnews, in December 2013.