We have followed the career of Mike Cuming from when he first joined Raleigh back in 2010 through his stint at Twenty3c–Orbea and then the last two years with Rapha Condor-JLT (Rapha Condor-Sharp in 2012). Top of his palmarés was the British Under 23 National title last year, until his win in the Tour of Korea in early June.
We managed to track him down after the British road race championships in Glasgow where he had been up against the “Big Boys” of the WorldTour; Cavendish, Fenn, Millar and the Sky riders, to hear about his Korean victory.
PEZ: You were 5th overall after the team time trial and then got into the break on stage 6 to move into the lead. Was that the plan before the TTT or was it something that just came about?
Mike Cuming: We did a great TTT I was very impressed with the team that day. Starting with just 5 guys we were up against it to start off with and we came through it very well. When I moved up on GC to a top 5 we were happy with that 1 I think I would have taken that right there and then. On stage 6 I wasn’t thinking about moving up on GC but when I got into the move and things suddenly swung in my favour I couldn’t believe it when I was yellow on the road!
PEZ: Once you were in yellow how hard was it for you and your Rapha Condor JLT team to control things?
Mike: It was very hard! We were down to 3 after a tough day in the mountains the day before (Elliot Porter, Richard Handley and Mike) Elliot road hard to start the stage and keep the pressure on then Rich took over and rode for the rest of the stage. He did a great job of looking after me up the climbs not taking me too far into the red and keeping our rivals in touching distance. It was pretty incredible to watch him go about his business! Luckily we had help from Christina Watches looking out for their place overall but Rich never stopped. It was pretty handy having the strongest bloke in the race working for me.
PEZ: There were a lot of strong teams in Korea with big race experience; Champion System, MTN-Qhubeka, Christina Watches, plus all the Asian teams. Did you feel a bit nervous lining up against them?
Mike: I did at first seeing the jerseys in the bunch that you’re used to watching on TV is a daunting thing at first but when you get into the racing you forget about that and just crack on with the job. It actually gives you confidence racing against those guys.
PEZ: Obviously the race course in Korea suited you as you won, but did you go there with that in mind?
Mike: Not at all we went there with a hope that we could do something, maybe get up there in a stage and maybe a guy in top10 in GC . I never imagined we could do what we did. The course was a lot harder than the 2012 edition so that played into my favour a bit.
PEZ: The average age of the Rapha team is quite young?
Mike: Yeah the team is very young. Last year the team decided to become more of a development structure and even more so this year. So many young guys, 18 and 19 year olds… I feel like an old man!
But it is great for me and the guys to have people like Kristian and Jimmy Mac, Ed Clancy in the team to watch and learn from. They are consummate professionals and just watching them do what they do is a great learning experience.
PEZ: At what point did you feel you had the overall win in the bag?
Mike: 10 metres before the line on the final day, I had a massive sigh of relief!
PEZ: What was the team celebration like after the last stage?
Mike: We had a BBQ with the Condor suppliers in Korea, nothing too special and outrageous it was nice to just relax with the team.
The final stage 8:
PEZ: Did you receive encouragement from people back in Britain during the race?
Mike: I had loads of encouragement. All my family and friends were following on twitter and waking up early to see how we got on! It was pretty incredible, but it certainly made me feel like I didn’t want to let them down. Rich Handley’s girlfriend Katherine said to us how pissed off they would all be if we didn’t win after missing so much sleep!
PEZ: Is there much difference racing in Korea than from somewhere in Europe?
Mike: At times it is the same with teams trying to control the race and you can relax a little but for the majority of the time It was hectic and unpredictable and you had to stay on your toes throughout the stages. The roads are wide and rolling most of the time as opposed to tight twisty lanes in Belgium or France so staying close to the front is slightly easier.
PEZ: Are there problems with the hotels or food and what about the logistics of an English based team racing in Korea?
Mike: No problems at all. We all get allocated a team bus and a team car and a driver for the bus and each team gets a translator to help out with logistics. This year we had the best one – Buyeong Lee. She was really helpful and got on really well with us all. The organisation did a good job with the food and trying to accommodate the foreign riders as best as possible. The hotels were pretty good as well.
PEZ: What about jet-lag, did that affect you?
Mike: On the way out I wasn’t too bad. I got into the swing of things pretty quick but on the way back home it hit me pretty bad. It’s been a week now and I still find myself wandering about the house at 4am.
PEZ: The team’s DS in Korea was Tom Southam who also picked up the Best Manager award; does John Herety (team manager) need to watch his back?
Mike: Ha ha! I don’t think John has to watch his back. Tom has managed one stage race and won it. With this 100% record he can retire now!
PEZ: How did the National Championship road race in Glasgow go for you?
Mike: Pretty badly. I tried my hardest to get up in the front with sky and Cav, Millar and co but I couldn’t hang in there with them. I went into the red getting there and blew my lights out and went backwards quickly. It was definitely an eye opener to how classy those riders are next level stuff.
PEZ: Do you know what your next big race will be after the National Championships?
Mike: We have a lot of national series road races (premiere calendar’s) and Criterium’s then Tour of Britain which is always important for the team. Also there is a 1.1 race around London which will be good.
PEZ: You come from a family of cyclists, has this win made any difference at home?
Mike: My family were really pleased for me but it’s made no difference what so ever. They’re good at keeping my head on my shoulders. They let me take time off from doing the dishes to come and do this interview though!
PEZ: Your cycling career has been progressing since you first signed with Raleigh three years ago; you’ve had a string of top results, then last year you won the British National U23 road race championship and now this year the Tour of Korea. What is the next step up for Mike Cuming?
Mike: I just want to crack on and make a habit of winning a few more races. I didn’t get any good results between the U23 nationals and Korea. The feeling of standing up on that podium was nice and I would love to do it again someday!
Mike is on an upward trajectory, what next? Keep it PEZ for his next move!
Images from The Tour of Korea, Rapha Condor-JLT Team and Cycling IQ (http://cyclingiq.com/).
Tour of Korea Final Overall Result:
1. Michael Cuming (GB) Rapha Condor JLT 25:34:29
2. Kinglok Cheung (HKg) Team Hong Kong, China 0:00:09
3. Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Spa) Christina Watches-Onfone 0:00:13
4. Yasuharu Nakajima (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team 0:01:13
5. Thomas Rabou (Ned) OCBC Singapore Continental Cycling Team 0:01:28
6. Dennis Van Niekerk (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka 0:01:37
7. Taiji Nishitani (Jpn) Aisan Racing Team 0:02:21
8. Joonyong Seo (Kor) KSPO 0:02:43
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka 0:03:02
10. Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) MTN-Qhubeka 0:03:04.