Steve Cummings has had a long and varied career on the road and track. He's ridden for some of the biggest teams in the world and forged a niche in the latter years of his career as one of the most successful breakaway riders in the modern peloton.
On the eve of his Tour of Britain win Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson sat down with the Dimension Data rider at the team's hotel just outside London to look back at his career – starting with humble beginnings at Landbouwkrediet and including stints at Discovery, Team Sky and BMC.
Below are some of the highlights but you can listen to the full podcast by just clicking the play icon above.
On turning pro in Belgium…
"I remember that my first roommate was Ludo Dierckxsens. I was a bit in awe of it all even though it was such a small team. Ludo was famous and I was in awe of him. He was 15 years older, had family and kids and been through it all, while I was just starting. The team gave me freedom to mix road and track."
On meeting Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow…
"I went from one of the smallest teams to one of the biggest in the world. Sean Yates pushed really hard to get me there and Max Sciandri had a contact there too. I signed really late, around November, and was signing the papers on the way to the airport because I wasn't sure if it was going to happen. I flew to this training camp and Lance Armstrong was there, Sheryl Crow, George Hincapie and all these stars and I just thought 'what am I doing here?' George broke his collarbone so I ended up doing Roubaix, Flanders and all the cobbles – the races you dream about when you were a kid.
"It was a mega team. Out of all the teams I've been in, bar this team [Dimension Data], that was my favourite team. I'd gone from sitting in a camper with no place to sleep at Landbouwkrediet to fancy buses and everything. They were giving you iPads, and it was a dream. It also had such a good feeling and I felt good. If they'd carried on, it would have been a bit scary, but I probably would have carried on in that team."
On loving life on an Italian team…
"At the end of 2006 I wasn't sure what was happening. I remember speaking on the phone with Contador and asking 'can I come with you?' but he didn't know what was happening. I got an offer from [Claudio] Corti and it was just a one-year deal. I called Bruyneel and he wasn't sure what the plan was and he told me to sign with Corti. I signed and then a few weeks later Bruyneel called me back and offered me a contract. I'm glad I went to Barloworld though. It was a really good move for me and gave me freedom and instead of being at the bottom I was nearer the top. I really grew to love the Italian ways and the Italian system. I started to think about winning races and not just riding in the wind for other people."
On riding with Froome before Tour success…
"I just remember that Froomey showed these flashes of brilliance. Otherwise he was just normal or less than normal. You could see that there was something special about him and he was always thinking, asking questions and wanting to be better. You could see he was a rough stone that needed polishing."
On riding at Team Sky…
"For me, that first year was miles off a team like Discovery and I didn't really enjoy my first year there. I had my moment, and I think I went well at the Giro, and I enjoyed the first part of the year but the programme I had that year was too heavy. At the start of the next year they sat me down and told me that I wasn't performing and I felt like I got the blame for something that wasn't really my fault. Then they put me on a crap programme in 2011. I won in Algarve but they didn't really give me a race.
"I got sick with pneumonia and was coughing up blood and was out of it for a week. Six weeks later I came back and was top ten in Poland. I remember Froomey at that time wasn't on more than minimum wage and he was in a similar position to me and they didn't really want him. He wasn't sure if he was doing the Vuelta and I wasn't doing it because I'd signed with BMC after Liege. He got the call and the rest is history. That was Sky."
On a difficult start to life at BMC, but turning things around…
"At the start, I was terrible. I broke my pelvis in Algarve, came back and broke my wrist in Pais Vasco, came back in California and fell again on the same wrist. Got through Suisse and then went to the Tour. They really believed in me and to put me in the Tour was good of them. I enjoyed it more when John Lelangue was there. When Peiper and that lot came it was more like Sky. It was more fun because they signed Gilbert and he had just had that incredible year and I got on really well with him.
"Thor Hushovd was there and he was a legend. It was a really great group of guys and some real stars. We had a lot of fun. It suited me better than Sky but they wanted a lot of my time and training camps and I'm not at my best at training camps. I have to work alone. At the Vuelta when I won we just had a laugh and won some stages. It was great."
On finding a home at Dimension Data…
"After BMC, it was late September and I didn't have a contract. Peiper had told me that everything would be alright back in May but it wasn't and he didn't bother telling me until September, which I thought was disgraceful to be honest. I was a bit stuck and then I gave Brian Smith a call at the Tour of Britain and I think I signed about halfway through. I said to my wife that if nothing comes up then I would have walked away. I wasn't ready to stop but if nothing came up then that would have been it. Sometimes you need to go to the edge of the cliff but Brian believed at me and saved me.
"Results started to come and more frequently. I always say to managers that I can't guarantee victories but I can guarantee that I can do this many watts, at this weight and normally that's enough to be competitive. Then it's a bike race.
"I wish I could do what a normal rider does, like a normal domestique but I've never been able to do it. I must drive all my managers crazy but as I've got older I've learned how to express myself and they've given me freedom because of the results I've had. The last two years have been great and I'm glad that I've got the best out of myself. I'm grateful to the team and Brian."
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