Steve Cummings quickly played down any idea of a rebirth of his career, but one thinks it could be after the Englishman signed for MTN-Qhubeka, won in the Challenge Mallorca and yesterday placed sixth overall in Tirreno-Adriatico behind Nairo Quintana.
He bounced around several top teams, from Discovery Channel to Barloworld, from Sky to BMC. With BMC, he won a stage in the Vuelta a España and in the early season last year, claimed victory in the Tour Méditerranéen.
This winter, the 33-year-old left the American team and signed for the South African professional continental team with Edvald Boasson Hagen, Tyler Farrar and Matt Goss. MTN already received one of the five invitations to race the Tour de France, which is part of Cummings’ programme this season.
“Could it be a renaissance? I don’t think so. It’s just that when you are in other teams you have riders that can probably ride in the top ten, but they always have to ride for someone else. Consequently they [place] nowhere, and perhaps that’s the difference,” Cummings told Cycling Weekly.
“And in other years, I have had a little bit of bad luck at the start of the season, this year it’s all gone pretty OK. I had a bit of bronchitis, and that maybe helped me in the end because it was a bit of a rest.”
Cummings placed eighth in the opening time trial, moved to third overall after the classification stage that Wout Poels (Sky) won and climbed to 11th place, ninth overall, on the snow blasted Monte Terminillo.
In yesterday’s time trial along Italy’s east coast in San Benedetto del Tronto, he overtook classification rivals Domenico Pozzovivo, Joaquím Rodríguez and Adam Yates to close his first WorldTour race of 2015 in sixth.
Yates, 22, slipped from sixth to ninth, maintaining his goal of a top 10 finish.
“Look at him,” MTN Principal Doug Ryder said when Cummings popped his head out of the team’s black and white bus door on Monday morning. “Since he joined our team and had his baby, he looks like a new man.”
Cummings explained that his confidence is building on the back of new team and his successes.
“It was a bit weird coming in, I missed [the Vuelta a] Andalucía. I did the first day and then had to leave with bronchitis, so I went home and then my wife and I had a baby. That was just a hectic period,” Cummings added.
“I didn’t really know coming into the race how I stood. I did the prologue, which was a bit explosive for me, but I still rode well. That was a good sign. We just thought to go day by day because Tirreno is chaotic. I had the classification in mind and the team gave me the freedom to save my energy for the overall.”