Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) was not ready to retire just yet, but does so smiling with the superb run that included an Olympic silver medal and two Tour de France stage wins.
The Briton had tried to continue, but without any offers, agrees that the time was right for him to stop a 15-year career.
“The teams were not interested, maybe they were worried about a 38-year-old and his form sliding away, which it inevitably does. But I would have gone until I was 60 years old!” Cummings told Cycling Weekly.
He stopped for a moment on the road to visit Monaco and Geraint Thomas (Ineos). With Thomas he raced several years, including at Barloworld and Team Sky. Likewise he raced with Bradley Wiggins, including on the track to win the 2004 Athens Games silver medal in the team pursuit with Paul Manning and Chris Newton.
Cummings also won two stages of the Tour de France with his first in 2015 while riding with MTN-Qhubeka, going solo in Mende in their white and black jersey. The victory was huge for him and for the South African team, coming on Nelson Mandela Day in their first Tour de France.
He reached his zenith in those years after years tinkering and learning while working and leading in some of the top teams, from Discovery to Barloworld, Sky to BMC Racing.
“Those were the best years, 2015, 2016 and 2017,” Cummings continued. “I felt great. I began the 2016 Tour thinking I’d win a stage.”
That 2016 season saw Cummings winning a stage in the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Critérium du Dauphiné. And he closed the season with the Tour of Britain overall victory.
When he wasn’t winning, he was sitting at the back of the peloton. That was OK, though, because keen followers knew that if Cummings was at the back, then everything was going well.
“They would criticise me some times, ‘Why are you at the back?’ In cycling, you always have the directors saying, ‘Go to the front, ride at the front.’ Sometimes, though, I think about what is best, whether it makes sense or not,” he said.
“If a team has the strongest rider in the race, they keep in him the front, and inevitably, he’s out of trouble and will win the race, but when you’re hunting a stage and not going for the GC, then it’s not obligatory that you ride at the front all day because that comes at a cost,” Cummings explained.
“Sometimes, it’s better to relax a little bit and make sure you are in the front fighting to be in the breakaway when when it’s your day. When your purpose is stage victory, you take your day, because you can’t win every stage.”
Cummings’s career spanned Bradley Wiggins to Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step). When he heard the names Remco and Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), he had a laugh.
“They are impressive. I’m glad I got a chance to ride alongside Remco and see him in action,” he continued.
“My career, I don’t have regrets. You always look back and think about what you did wrong, but that was part of the process. And it all came together for me too, I can be proud.”
Age and a crash at the Tour of Britain this September (which resulted in fractured vertebrae), forced Cummings to a stop. He said his agent was speaking with Dimension Data and other teams for 2020 options, but the “offers dried up.”
Now, he continues his road trip to touch base with some of his friends and colleagues, and try to discover what will be the next chapter in his life.
“I just want to find something, the right mix,” he added, “where I can earn enough money and have time to live life, too.”