It has been a season to forget for Steve Cummings. Or maybe not. The British rider has had a frustrating and winless campaign, but is determined now to use it as a force for change.
“It’s good you know, sometimes you need a season like that,” he told Cyclingnews at the Vuelta a España, where he had his Grand Tour fill after missing out on selection for the Tour de France.
“You rip everything you’ve been doing apart and it’s an opportunity to change some things and go forward. I think it’s just given me a chance to explore everything really, lots of new ideas. That’s how I see it, anyway.”
Cummings had enjoyed a highly successful spell since joining Dimension Data in 2015, and seemed liberated and rejuvenated, even in his late 30’s. He won a stage of the Tour de France in his first year and then added another in a 2016 season that also included wins at Tirreno-Adriatico, Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Criterium du Dauphine, and the overall title at the Tour of Britain. In 2017 he claimed the road race and time trial double at the British national championships and then a stage of the Giro della Toscana later in the year.
This year, however, he has no wins and has failed to finish half the races he has started. His programme was altered by the team, and the situation was only compounded by the long injury list at the team. For someone who describes himself as ‘goal-driven’, having to fill gaps at late notice was far from ideal.
On top of the Tour de France snub, Cummings was informed last week that he hadn’t been selected for the British team for the upcoming World Championships. He has clashed with British Cycling over selection in the past but this time, though disappointed, he could see it coming.
“You think about the Worlds when we won with Cav and that was what I was hoping for – that we could go and someone could win the Worlds and I could be part of that again. It wasn’t like I thought I could win the Worlds or anything like that. Of course, it’s disappointing but it’s the way it is, isn’t it, I just haven’t performed as well as I could have this year, for one reason or another,” Cummings said.
“I think the course suits the Yates brothers, I’d say they were favourites and I think the team has to be what’s best to help them. It looks like a really good team. Personally of course it’s disappointing but to see how British cycling has grown and how many riders we have for different roles, that’s really cool. We have super talented riders coming through and everyone there deserves their place. I’m excited to watch and wish everyone well.”
Cummings has made it to the end of the Vuelta. He was present in a couple of breakaways but has had a quiet three weeks and was mostly seen in his favoured position at the very rear of the peloton.
Rather than trying to salvage something from his trying season in Spain – and at his upcoming outings in the autumn Italian Classics – he is already laying the foundations for the next one.
“Doing this Vuelta is almost like starting afresh into next year. I’m looking at everything in my daily routine to try and get back to the level I had before. That’s the goal,” he said.
“I think you have to remain open. As soon as you close off to new ideas and new thinking it’s not a good way, so you have to just have to try and remain open and look to improve all the time. Perhaps over time you find certain things that work well for you or did work well for you. Sometimes a bad experience can be a good one because it just forces you to go over everything you’re doing and make some positive changes.”
There is no specific area of his regime that Cummings has identified needs changing. His is a global approach, drilling right down as deep as the meaning of why he gets on his bike every day.
“I think I’m just in this mode now of just kind of exploring all the possibilities, the hows and whys. It’s difficult to explain… it’s nothing I haven’t done before, it’s just going over everything, like pulling everything apart, and asking, ‘Why? Why?’.
“A lot of it is not really on the bike, it’s off the bike. If you plan like that off the bike, which is how work anyway – I’m very much goal driven – then going on the bike is just part of the process and it’s a lot easier for me to understand what I’m doing.
“I’m looking for new ideas, new things, and new thinking. Maybe I don’t change anything or maybe I change small things that make a big difference. I think it’s going back to having a really good solid plan that we’ll deliver, and sort of the desire and commitment to believe in that plan, and then execute it.”