Steve Cummings took the best British finish on the opening stage of the 2015 Tour de France, finishing 10th in the 13.8km time trial through the streets of Utrecht, 32 seconds down on the record breaking ride of stage winner Rohan Dennis (BMC).
However the MTN-Qhubeka man was frustrated with his performance, feeling that pre-race nerves saw him give away speed on the fast, flowing corners along the course.
“I think the occasion got to me,” Cummings told Cycling Weekly as he warmed down outside the MTN team bus. “The whole day I felt like I was rushing. It’s a bit frustrating, I never really felt composed.
“It’s just a feeling I had that I messed up a lot of corners and lost a lot of speed.”
Cummings noted that the large crowds of Dutch supporters gave the course a very different feel to the empty roads he had ridden during his course reconnaissance, often reducing visibility around the bends.
‘I felt a bit of pressure,” he added. “I just wanted to kick things off really well for the team, to give everyone a big: ‘come on, we can do this.’”
The result was Cummings’ second best ever in a grand tour time trial – he finished eighth on the final stage of the 2008 Giro d’Italia – and the Merseysider is looking to reap the rewards of what has already been a strong season as this year’s Tour progresses.
“From now we’re looking more towards the second half of the Tour. I’m pretty confident that once we get into the race I’ll get better. I always feel better after some days of work,” he added.
“Maybe over time other people get worse and I just stay the same. Maybe I’m just old!”
Cummings pipped Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas (12th at 33 seconds) and national time trial champion Alex Dowsett (13th at 36 seconds). Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) posted the 33rd fastest time, 46 seconds behind Dennis, while Chris Froome was 39th at 50 seconds.
Like a lot of riders, Yates’ brother Adam suffered in the heat and finished 97th (at 1:18), behind Peter Kennaugh in 68th (at 1:08) and Ian Stannard in 74th (at 1:11) but ahead of Mark Cavendish in 123rd (at 1:26) and Luke Rowe in 180th (at 1:54).
“After two or three kilometres you could already feel it [the heat],” Adam Yates said. “It’s hard to explain to people who have never experienced a race in the heat. You just shut down, you have no power. You feel OK but the heart rate goes sky high and you have nothing.”
Tour de France 2015 Preview: Le Grand Depart