‘It’s awfully early,’ I thought to myself when I saw Degenkolb’s Argos boys commit with 50 K to go during Stage 13 of the La Vuelta a España 2012. And so it proved, there was a lot of firepower in the seven man break; Italian fast man Elia Viviani (Liquigas), hard working Linus Gerdemann (Shack), harder than nails Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), Giro podium finisher Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), GreenEDGE flyers Cameron Meyer and Simon Clarke – the latter already a stage winner in this race.
And a certain Mr Steve Cummings from the BMC Racing team.
There’s a Spanish word, ‘Caudillo’ – it’s usually applied to politicians or military men, it means; ‘Strongman.’
Steve was definitely the Caudillo, today.
When Steve Cummings rode for Discovery Channel in 2007, he rode in the service of Alberto Contador; ‘Bert’ told the Disco mechanic Allan Butler;
“When you ask Cummings to ride on the front – he rides, I’d have him on my team any time!”
Praise doesn’t come much higher.
Cummings is the pro’s pro – not flash; just big, strong and tough.
His first big result was winning the British junior road race championship in 1999; by 2004 he was an Olympic silver medallist in the team pursuit for GB.
He rode with no frills Belgian squad Landbouwkrediet for 2005 – the year he took a rainbow jersey in the team pursuit.
It was team pursuit Worlds silver and Commonwealth gold with Landbou in 2006; and in 2007 he went to work for Alberto at Disco – not much freedom to go for results there.
Barloworld was the name on the jersey for 2008 and it should have been his breakthrough year – he won a stage and was second on GC in the Tour of Reggio Calabria, won the Coppa Bernochi and was second on GG in the Tours of Denmark and Britain.
The following season should have built on the solid foundation of 2008 but as Cummings explained when he signed for Sky at the start of 2010;
“The 2009 season started well, I was seventh in the Trofeo Laigueglia but after that, I went to South Africa for the Giro del Capo series of races.
“It took me until about August to recover from that – I was riding the Tour of the Med and it was 10 degrees; within 36 hours I was riding in South Africa with the temperature at 46 degrees; then 24 hours after The Cape it was back to 10/15 degrees at Tirreno.
“I had problems from then on with my muscles filling up with fluids – one thing I want to make clear is that I specifically asked the team not to send me to South Africa; I knew that I would have that problem under those circumstances.”
By the end of 2009 the word was that Cummings and Barloworld manager, Claudio Corti couldn’t be in the same room anymore.
The Sky was the limit in 2010 and he rode the hard kilometres in the Tour and Giro.
In 2011 he started well with a stage win in the Tour of the Algarve; but lost three months mid-season due to illness.
The form returned as the season came to a close with second in the Tour of Britain, silver in the British elite time trial championship and fourth in the Tour of Beijing.
And of course, he was one of the stalwarts of Cav’s triumph in Copenhagen.
But despite these strong showings for Sky he opted to go with ‘super team’ BMC for 2012.
But it’s not 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.
All of that was forgotten today when he became a Grand Tour stage winner.
Inside the last 10 K it was apparent that Argos were burned out – Degenkolb was still there but with no team and no real organised chase he’ll have to wait a little longer for win number five.
Lotto-Belisol tried, so did Rabobank but the roads weren’t conducive to an organised chase and the chasers were as wasted as the breakaways.
Despite the fact that the parcours wasn’t savage and the chase wasn’t an HTC or Sky job, the ones, twos and threes constantly getting spat out of the back gave testimony to the fact that this was a very hard day in the saddle.
In the break, Flecha took a flyer at six to go, but it didn’t look like the move of a winner, more desperate than dynamic.
Cummings countered, bridged up and with four K to go made his own move – but this one did look good.
Committed, powerful and smooth – as you’d expect from a man who can ride 4,000 metres at 60 kph plus.
Meyer got up to Flecha and it was one against two against three – Viviani was gone, he’s spent too much time training on the track for his endurance not to have been affected.
Meyer and Flecha fought hard but Cummings was too strong and as the red kite flashed past it was looking good.
BMC’s most ardent Liverpool FC fan crossed the line alone to take his biggest ever victory with time to give a salute to the crowd.
“When I went, it was full gas, but the whole day was hard.
“I knew that I could only win if I was alone; there were some fast boys in there. I waited for a good moment – and then all I could was to go 100%.
“It’s my best victory after what has been a very difficult year.”
It’s nice when the good guys win.
Tomorrow is the first of three days in the mountains – that low retirement rate is about to change.
And so is the GC – sleep well boys.
Results - La Vuelta a España 2012 - Stage 13
2 Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge 0:00:04
3 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling
4 Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge 0:00:14
5 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Radioshack-Nissan
6 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
7 John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano 0:00:40
8 Allan Davis (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge
9 Ben Swift (GBr) Sky Procycling
10 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
11 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre – ISD
12 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
13 Koldo Fernandez (Spa) Garmin – Sharp
14 Leonardo Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
15 Tiziano Dall’antonia (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
16 Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
17 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Radioshack-Nissan
18 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
19 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
20 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
21 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
22 Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural
23 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
24 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
25 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
26 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling
27 Manuel Antonio Leal Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural
28 Rob Ruijgh (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
29 Alberto Losada Alguacil (Spa) Katusha Team
30 Pieter Weening (Ned) Orica – GreenEdge
31 Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
32 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
33 Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC Racing Team
34 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
35 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
36 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
37 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team
38 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre – ISD
39 Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
40 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team
41 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan
42 Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team
43 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat
44 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
45 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
46 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
47 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre – ISD
48 Pim Ligthart (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
49 Denys Kostyuk (Ukr) Lampre – ISD
50 Jan Bakelants (Bel) Radioshack-Nissan
51 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
52 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
53 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
54 Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin – Sharp
55 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge
56 Grischa Niermann (Ger) Rabobank Cycling Team
57 Marcos Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural
58 Davide Vigano (Ita) Lampre – ISD
59 Grégory Rast (Swi) Radioshack-Nissan
60 Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team
61 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
62 Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
63 Travis Meyer (Aus) Orica – GreenEdge
64 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
65 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
66 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
67 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team
68 Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
69 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa) Katusha Team
70 Gustavo Cesar Veloso (Spa) Andalucia
71 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin – Sharp
72 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
73 Raymond Kreder (Ned) Garmin – Sharp
74 Maciej Paterski (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale
75 Dario Cataldo (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
76 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) BMC Racing Team
77 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Astana Pro Team
78 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana Pro Team
79 Steve Morabito (Swi) BMC Racing Team
80 Laurent Didier (Lux) Radioshack-Nissan
81 Mickaël Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
82 Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha Team
83 Matteo Montaguti (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
84 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team
85 Bruno Pires (Por) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
86 Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
87 Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling
88 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling
89 Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale
90 Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Liquigas-Cannondale
91 Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
92 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team
93 Nicki Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
94 Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
95 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) Movistar Team
96 Ivan Velasco Murillo (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
97 Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar Team
98 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) Radioshack-Nissan
99 Cristiano Salerno (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
100 Daniel Teklehaymanot (Eri) Orica – GreenEdge
101 Gabriel Rasch (Nor) FDJ-Big Mat
102 Sergio Carrasco Garcia (Spa) Andalucia
103 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
104 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Garmin – Sharp
105 Fredrik Carl Wilhelm Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team
106 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
107 Romain Sicard (Fra) Euskaltel – Euskadi
108 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Liquigas-Cannondale
109 Javier Ramirez Abeja (Spa) Andalucia
110 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre – ISD
111 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Garmin – Sharp
112 Tiago Machado (Por) Radioshack-Nissan
113 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
114 Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank
115 Bertjan Lindeman (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
116 Koen De Kort (Ned) Argos-Shimano
117 Martijn Keizer (Ned) Vacansoleil-Dcm Pro Cycling Team
118 David De La Fuente Rasilla (Spa) Caja Rural
119 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
120 Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
121 Frantisek Rabon (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
122 Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team
123 Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
124 Pavel Brutt (Rus) Katusha Team
125 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Garmin – Sharp
126 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team
127 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling
128 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank 0:00:58
129 Egor Silin (Rus) Astana Pro Team 0:01:01
130 Marco Marzano (Ita) Lampre – ISD
131 Benoît Vaugrenard (Fra) FDJ-Big