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Steve Cummings has retired from professional cycling, here's a recap of his best win

Joe Robinson
20 Nov 2019

The 38-year-old hangs up his wheels. Let's remember when he became a cycling sensation

Steve Cummings has retired at the age of 38. A former road and time trial National Champion, three-time Grand Tour stage winner, Tour of Britain champion. But that’s not why you’ll remember him.

The Merseyside rider will be remembered for a short 14 month period during his career where he was completely unstoppable.

Starting in the July of 2015, ending in the September of 2016, Cummings etched out one of the most recent in phenomenon in professional cycling. It earned him six victories, fear among his peers and a resurgence to his career.

Each win followed a formula. Kilometre after kilometre, stage after stage, he would mope around at the back of the peloton, like a grumpy schoolboy, hanging a metre or two off the next-final rider. Each day he will have rolled in minutes upon minutes down on the leaders, out of sight, out of mind.

Until the day came and then he was as deadly as a black widow spider.

Either making a large breakaway or staying in the peloton, he would hang around at the back of the bunch. The pace would up, riders would drop and Cummings would stay put. With 10km to go, all would fall into colour order, positioning their team leader at rear of their leadout.

Everyone would begin to look around, a lull would happen, that’s when he would pounce. Timing it to perfection, every time, he would roll off the front. Not with a fierce attack, more a churning of the gears that saw him etch metre after metre of daylight.

Panic would set in among the chasers, they knew they were done for. No catching Cummings once he’d got that gap.

In 2016, he did his same trick on Stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico, Stage 3 of the Tour of the Basque Country, Stage 7 of the Criterium du Dauphine and Stage 7 of the Tour de France.

The pinnacle of his career

However, Cummings’s number one hit, his career-defining work, his ‘Abbey Road’ came on 18th July 2015, when the phenomena began.

It was Stage 14 of the Tour de France, a 178km transitional day from Rodez to Mende. Two young Frenchmen, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, were hungry to salvage their lost General Classification ambitions with a stage win.

They rode with aggression in the hilly final 30km, shelling all others in the breakaway, cresting the final climb of Cote de la Croix Neuve as a duo. To all intents and purposes, the Gallic pair believed the race was going to be a straight shootout as they turned into the Mende airstrip.

Yet from behind, like a lion stalking its prey, Cummings appeared in view. Rolling that gear, hunched over the bars. In silence, he crept onto the wheels of Bardet and Pinot for a split second before shooting past.

He crossed the line to take his first Tour de France win at the age of 34. But even more significantly, his win gave MTN-Qhubeka their first-ever Grand Tour stage win, their first Tour de France victory.

Rumour has it, if you look in Steve's pockets, Romain and Thibaut are still there.

And this all happened for ‘Africa’s team’, the only WorldTour team ever to have been registered to the continent, on Mandela Day, a day of celebration for the former South African president and pioneer of equality.

That ride into Mende was a ‘where were you’ performance. The kind of ride you talk about more than others, ‘do you remember the time Cummings mugged Pinot and Bardet of that Tour stage?’ kind of thing.

It marked the beginning of a Midas period in the career of a rider that looked to be on the way out. That day marked the beginning of the Cummings Phenomenon.