After strong season, Steve Cummings leaves Team Sky for BMC Racing Team
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Friday, September 30, 2011

After strong season, Steve Cummings leaves Team Sky for BMC Racing Team

by Shane Stokes at 11:50 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Will work for team leaders but also believes he’ll have personal opportunities

Steve CummingsTwelve days after finishing second overall in the Tour of Britain and five after playing an important role in helping Mark Cavendish take the world road race championships, Steve Cummings has been named as the latest rider to have completed terms to ride for the BMC Racing Team in 2012.

The Briton has been racing with the Sky Procycling squad for the past two years but is now moving to ride alongside Tour de France winner Cadel Evans, world number one Philippe Gilbert and the 2010 world champ Thor Hushovd. Americans George Hincapie, Tejay Van Garderen and Taylor Phinney will also be on the team, ensuring that Cummings will have a strong mix of experienced pros and promising young pros to work with.

In some ways the move away from Sky is a surprising one, given that Cummings has very close links to British Cycling; he’s landed an Olympic silver medal and world championship gold meal with the country’s team pursuit squad. However former British Cycling academy coach and occasional Sky director Max Sciandri moved to the American team last winter and the chance to work with him again is a big factor in Cummings’ decision.

He’s also impressed by the all-round strength of the squad. “They've just won the Tour de France, and the riders they've signed have the chance to win almost any race,” he stated. “Their entire program really has the whole package.”

The strength in depth of the team is such that there would seem to be a danger that new signings might end up being passed over for selection in the top races. However team president and general manager Jim Ochowicz has made it clear that he believes the rider will be in the running for slots in the prime events.

“Steve is an accomplished time trialist – both in the individual and the team version – in addition to being a good climber,” he said. “We expect him to be a great help to the team in the Grand Tours and other stage races throughout the season.”

Cummings knows that in those races, he’ll most likely be riding for the team leaders such as Evans, Hushovd and Gilbert. However he believes he’ll also have chances to pick up results for himself.

“I want to work as hard as possible for the team and make the most of any opportunities that come my way. If I can do that, then I'm happy,” he said.

Now thirty years of age, he’s continuing to progress. Aside from his runner-up slot in the Tour of Britain, he was also second to Alex Dowsett in the national time trial championships and ninth overall in both the Tour of Poland and the Tour of the Mediterranean. However the most impressive result was his stage win on day three of the Volta ao Algarve; he beat Van Garderen, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank SunGard), Tony Martin (HTC Highroad) and others to the top of the Malhao climb.

He subsequently led the race for two days and finished a very solid seventh overall, highlighting his abilities.

Cavendish move seems highly unlikely:

Some may ponder if Cummings’ signing plus the ongoing presence of Sciandri could see Cavendish also sign for the team. In having Alessandro Ballan, Evans and Hushovd on board, it has already three out of the past four world champions, with only the most recent missing. The team also said that it had spoken to Cavendish at some point in recent weeks about his plans for 2012.

However when Hushovd was signed in August, Evans made it clear that he didn’t want a pure sprinter on the team. “I said: 'Look Jim, you want to bring a sprinter to the team, I don't want to ride with a sprinter, because I've done that and I've done my share,” he stated, according to Reuters. “'If I do the Tour I want to do it for the win.

“I was fairly clear about that and Jim was accepting of that, so it's under that basis that Thor comes to our team.”

Ochowicz subsequently clarified the context of the remarks to VeloNation. “As was the case this year, we won’t have a sprinter on the team,” he said. “But I don’t put Thor Hushovd in the sprinting category…he is obviously a sprinter, but he is not a Cavendish or Greipel or Petacchi-type of a person. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a chance to win a stage, but it’s not going to be with a leadout, and it is not going to be with the team chasing all day.”

That clearly rules Cavendish out: at this point in time, despite the ongoing delay in him announcing his 2012 team, Sky Procycling still seems like the most likely destination. He’ll work with a lot of familiar faces there but, following today’s news, not with Cummings.

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