Steve Cummings won the Tour de France stage last year and stage four of the 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico. Career-making wins, he says. And the freedom came thanks to joining MTN/Dimension Data last year after years with Team Sky and BMC Racing.
The Englishman, 35 next Saturday, escaped solo in the fourth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico. He had been working for Edvald Boasson Hagen, but when he saw his moment at 3.4 kilometres out, he took it.
"It was a victory presented on a platter" to the former British team pursuit world champion.
"They mean everything, it makes a career to win these races that I've won in these last two years," Cummings said after cooling off and arriving at the pressroom. "That's why I race the bike. I'm grateful to the team to give me this freedom."
Cummings spent two years in Team Sky when it began in 2010 and three years in American outfit BMC Racing before joining MTN-Qhubeka in 2015. Last year, on a Tour de France wildcard invitation, the team gave its riders the freedom to exploit their talents.
The victory marked a first for a professional African team in the Tour de France. And a huge step for Cummings, who had spent several years working for others. The team raised the stakes this year: with new sponsor Dimension Data, a WorldTour licence and five-star cyclist, Mark Cavendish.
Watch: Steve Cummings's win down to strong strong teamwork, says Dimension Data DS
"The team in general seems different. We signed Cavendish and others like Bernie Eisel. The tactic is different," Cummings said. "Sometimes we have to control the race; last year, we were always free. More responsibility? Yes, for sure, 100%. It changes with Mark."
With Cavendish in the gruppetto, though, the others took their chances today. Cummings escaped in the closing climbs of the mammoth 222-kilometre stage through Lazio and Umbria with Boasson Hagen and Natnael Berhane. He marked the various attacks for Boasson Hagen and doing so, moved clear with five others.
"I was just playing policeman in the end, making sure the riders didn't get away," he added. "They kept pulling and at three kilometres to go, I thought the victory was there on a platter for me, so I just took it."
The stage is a tester for many ahead of next week's Milan-San Remo. Team manager Brian Smith said that Cummings may now race and his role would be the same again for Edvald Boasson Hagen – which leaves a small opportunity for another big career-making win.
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