Steve Cummings has become a master of the stealth move that wins races. He did it in the Tour de France last year, Tirreno Adriatico this year and today, the Vuelta al País Vasco.
It almost seems innocuous, a casual boost of acceleration – nothing threatening, nothing violent – and then suddenly he’s gone. That was certainly the case in the final kilometers of stage three from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Lesaka.
With the peloton all back together, he rolled up the left side of the road by himself and followed the attack from a Cofidis rider who had just made his own move, creating a small gap.
Cummings pulled up behind the Cofidis rider for just a moment then, bam, he zipped away before anyone realized, ohh, Cummings, stealth move, Tour de France all over again.
They finally reacted, almost catching him in the final meters but not quite enough to prevent Cummings from enjoying the win, arms out, floating over the finish-line.
It almost looks easy and you know it’s just about impossible. Lots of guys take their shot in the final moments of a race, a few k’s out, making a jump, failing, another guy jumps, failing, then another. Somewhere Jens Voigt is doing a slow clap, impressed as Hell.
Cummings has somehow developed that uncanny skill of reading a race perfectly, working the odds and scenarios and then sensing the exact right moment to strike.
“What a brilliant feeling this is,” said Cummings in a team statement. “These early season races are so hard and to get two wins now, one in Tirreno-Adriatico and another here at País Vasco, it feels quite good. Before we came to País Vasco though I said I wanted to win a stage, some people may have thought something different about that, but I am happy to have done it.”
It seems that Dimension Data is the perfect fit for Cummings. They allow him to pick his spots, give him the freedom when his legs are good and support him in a more relaxed fashion than his old squad at Sky.
And in return, Cummings is delivering the goods in some high profile races. He’s like the veteran running back who is good for 70 yards a game but when there’s a big playoff game on the line he suddenly breaks out for 120 yards.
Personally, we’ll always remember how he suckered two Frenchmen on Bastille Day in the 2015 Tour de France. Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot were playing games at the end of stage 14 with the assumption that one of them was guaranteed the win. They didn’t even bother to look behind as Cummings came screaming off a descent and blew by them like a rocket. It was a cruel lesson in bike racing 101 for Bardet and Pinot who had no excuse for being so clueless, especially on a major French holiday during the biggest sporting event in the county.
Chapeau Cummings. His Dimension Data squad is big on race performance analytics but you can’t measure stealth and cunning. Except on the podium.