He was referring of course to Steve Cummings (BMC Racing & GB) – and whilst some of his comments regarding the Vuelta parcours may be liable to stimulate discussion, his pronouncement on Cummings is unarguable.
The former GB team pursuit star joined Cameron Meyer and Simon Clarke (both Orica-GreenEdge), Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky & Spain) Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), Elia Viviani (Liquigas & Italy and Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) in the break of the day.
The septet worked hard, but were never allowed too much leeway by the peloton – making for a dramatic finale with Flecha going off alone then Cummings countering and making his own solo move with four headwind kilometres to go.
And when the final hands were being tossed on to the poker table, it was the man from the Wirral Peninsula in England who kept the coolest head and played his cards to best advantage.
Cummings is a rider whose palmares and strength are often over-looked, perhaps because he’s from the old, ‘let the pedals do the talking’ school.
A world and Commonwealth champion in the team pursuit, he’s also has an Olympic silver in the discipline.
On the road he’s won an Italian semi-classic – The Coppa Bernocchi – and stood on the GC podium of the national tours of Britain and Denmark.
He’s ridden as a ‘super domestique’ in the service of Alberto Contador during his Discovery days and was one of the key men in Cavendish’s Copenhagen triumph, last year.
Despite the fact that he rides for ‘super squadra’ BMC Racing, was two seasons with Sky and one with Discovery, his pro career hasn’t all been luxury coaches and electronic gears – he rode two seasons with low budget, no nonsense Belgian team Landbouwkrediet-Colnago and two with cosmopolitan tea, Pro Continental team Barloworld.
His dues are fully paid.
But 2012 hasn’t been a good season – he broke his pelvis in the Tour of the Algarve in February, then his left wrist in the Tour of the Basque Country and had bad crashes in the Tour of California and in the Tour de France.
He took some of his precious rest day down time to talk to PEZ about his fine win and – what’s going on at his precious Liverpool Football Club.
PEZ: Congratulations on a fine win, Steve; career hi-lite -Vuelta stage or team pursuit Worlds?
Steve Cummings: Vuelta stage, for sure!
PEZ: Wasn’t that a hot, hard stage to go for, bearing in mind the previous stage was so brutal?
SC: Not really, we’re here to win stages not ride for the GC, so on that final climb up the Mirador de Ezaro where Rodriguez won stage 12, I was just riding it easy.
The goal is to save as much energy as possible so you ride a finish climb like that slowly.
As for the heat, the first week was the worst, the second week wasn’t so bad – and it’s the same for everyone, isn’t it?
PEZ: It’s ironic after the season you’ve had that you should win on stage 13.
SC: Yeah, it’s strange – I still have a bit of back pain from crashing in the Tour but it gets better every day.
PEZ: Did you target stage 13 specifically?
SC: I just take the race stage by stage, but I knew that this stage presented a good opportunity and I tried very hard to get with that move.
PEZ: Was there good cooperation in the break?
SC: Really good – what helped was that the peloton kept us within three minutes, all day.
If had gone out to 10 minutes than you’d have seen guys messing around; but as it was, everyone rode, we had to – they were all strong riders.
PEZ: Viviani was dropped before the finale, with him being so quick that must have been a relief?
SC: I knew it had been a hard day for everyone and I honestly didn’t think it would come down to the sprint – I knew someone would clip off and that was what I was watching for and what actually happened.
PEZ: Flecha was the one to jump.
SC: I think I played it well; I stayed calm and tried to use the other riders to my advantage as much as I could – but I had to wait because there was a head wind.
Once I was away, Max Sciandri was screaming at me from the team car; ‘go, go, go!’
The trouble was that when I looked back Flecha and Meyer looked so close!
But it was a big help Max encouraging me all the way home
PEZ: The peloton was pretty close, too.
SC: It was always going to be like that but on the run in I figured that there wouldn’t be guys as strong as the seven riders in the break doing the chasing, so we should manage to stay clear.
PEZ: You’ve ridden the Giro and Tour, how does the Vuelta compare?
SC: I’ve enjoyed it – good roads, good hotels and it’s been exciting racing for the TV with a good mix of stages.
Things are a little more relaxed at this stage of the season – so that helps too.
PEZ: What did you do between the Tour and Vuelta?
SC: I stayed active, on the bike every day but doing as little as I felt I could get away with.
I thought that I’d suffer for the first week of the Vuelta but I’d pick up for the second week.
That crash in the Tour left me in a lot of pain – I was on muscle relaxants and pain killers.
I rode San Sebastian and felt so bad that the Vuelta was in doubt – my back was painful, I had damaged ligaments around my coccyx and I had difficulties with my breathing.
But I’ve seen the team chiropractor every day since then and it gets better every day.
PEZ: What was the BMC plan for the race?
SC: Steve Morabito had ambitions of a top ten, but it wasn’t as if that was our main goal – our ambition was to win stages.
When Philippe Gilbert won the stage into Barcelona that took a lot of pressure of – that was a really classy win and the mood in the team was much more relaxed after that.
And it was good to see him back on the podium.
PEZ: What do you think of ‘mad’ stages like Cuitu Negru?
SC: Maybe Cuitu was a little hard but it certainly sorts things out, doesn’t it?
I was on 36 x 27 up there.
PEZ: And the rest of the race?
SC: We’ll just keep going for stages, getting in the breaks – and if there’s a finish to suit Philippe then we’ll be working for him.
PEZ: You’re on the GB ‘long’ list for the Worlds.
SC: I’m always up for the Worlds, especially on that course – I’ve ridden the Amstel a few times so I know the parcours and it’s a good course for me.
PEZ: What’s still on the Cummings ‘wish list?’
SC: Keep on improving, find the opportunities – I’d love to win a Giro and Tour stage.
PEZ: And now the serious question; what’s happening at Liverpool Football Club – Ј35 million for Andy Carroll, then he doesn’t get a game?
SC: I’m a bit depressed with it, I don’t get the chance to see them much, but I read a lot about them and it’s all so negative.
It seems crazy to pay all that money for Carroll then they sack the manager that signed him and loan the player to West Ham.
It’s strange what’s going on – but I guess there’s a lot more to the signings and management than folks outside the club will ever get to know.