Cummings: Leaving Cavendish out of Tour de France was a big call

Usually in Tour de France mixed zones it's the journalists who serve up the first questions as the riders freewheel along the narrow corridor that leads to the sanctuary of the team buses.

However, there are times when the topic of question is so obvious and clear that the riders can offer their own initial questioning.

"You're going to ask me about Cav, aren't you?" Steve Cummings ventured when Cyclingnews caught his eye.

The news that Mark Cavendish hadn't been selected for his 13th straight Tour de France completely overshadowed Dimension Data's squad announcement – even if they had chosen to emit the 30-time Tour stage winner's name from their press release in an attempt to focus on the eight athletes who had been selected.

Even Cummings called his inclusion "a shock" in that release, owing to the fact that he had not finished a stage race since March, and that his last stage-race outing at the Criterium du Dauphine in June had ended on stage 2 due to illness.

"I'm just sad," he told Cyclingnews when asked about Cavendish. "From being a long-term friend. He's a legend of the Tour de France and it's a big call to leave him out."

When asked if he would have taken Cavendish to the Tour de France, the initial response came from the team press officer standing next to Cummings right shoulder, but the veteran rider politely responded to the question with the most honest answer he could give under the circumstances.

"I would gather all the evidence and then make a decision, but I don't have all the evidence so I can't answer the question."

As for the Dimension Data riders who have arrived in Brussels, the remit is relatively clear. With no true GC aspirations, the team will hunt stages throughout the three-week Grand Tour. In Edvald Boasson Hagen they have a proven stage winner, and the Norwegian is certainly in form. In Michael Valgren and Steve Cummings – also a double Tour stage winner – they have two riders of class, although their form is questionable given their results this year.

"I did a good Tour of Norway, but it's been a bit of a mixed season," Cummings said. "I did well in Algarve and felt good. I felt good again at Tirreno, but there were no real results. I was a bit disappointed with my time trial there, but it wasn't a million miles away from where I needed to be. Then I had a crash in Pays Basque and was out for a while. When I came back in Norway, I felt really good. The numbers were as good as ever. Then I got sick and I went to the Dauphine and I was sick there and stopped.

"If you're bad at the Dauphine, they pick the team afterwards, so I put two-and-two together and thought that I was out of the team. That's why I was surprised."
Given his surprise at his own inclusion, Cummings was asked why he thought he was selected.

"You're probably asking the wrong person," he said. "You'd have to ask the manager, but I'm glad to be here. I'm just here to do the best for the team. The team is hunting for stages so a successful Tour would be to hunt in a good way – that we give everything that we can on the road and the result is the result. If we can't give any more that's it. The morale is good, and we've got a good group."

On paper, at least, there are several stages in the race that suit Cummings' skillset. For a period of time he was 'the specialist in art of the breakaway', with several high-profile wins to his name. His stage win in Mende in 2015, when he outfoxed both Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, remains a highlight of both his career and Dimension Data's history in the Tour de France. After all, it was their first stage win before Cavendish and Cummings combined to win five stages a year later.

This year, with his form somewhat harder predict, Cummings gave another honest answer when asked about this year's route and his chances.

"In the end it comes down to legs, but it's not about me – it's about the team, and the team they've selected suits what they're trying to do," he said.

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