Steve Cummings has joined Ineos Grenadiers as a development directeur sportif and coach, with the former professional athlete returning to the squad a decade after he left as a rider.
Cummings retired from professional cycling at the end of 2019, bringing down the curtain on a highly successful career that included two stage wins in the Tour de France, a stage in the Vuelta a España, and stints on some of the biggest teams in the sport, including BMC Racing, Dimension Data, and of course Team Sky.
After spending 2020 studying for a degree and dabbling with television commentary, he explained to Cyclingnews that his passion for the sport and his competitive edge enticed him back towards the peloton.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into the action and working with the riders and staff. It’s the start of a new journey. If you look at the team, and you’re talking about selection, it’s definitely a squad blessed with unbelievable talent. There’s also a strong British contingent coming through with Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock,” Cummings said.
“I had a few other projects that I was looking at, with development of younger riders, but I’ve missed that competitive edge and I’m over the moon to be given this opportunity to work with every team member because you can learn a lot from them. They’ve got some amazing riders and coaches and the leaders of the team are the best that I’ve worked with.”
The move into Ineos’ management has been in the works for some time, with Cummings in talks with former team CEO Fran Millar before her departure last year. However, when Dave Brailsford invited Cummings to his office for a meeting it wasn’t long before an offer was made and Cummings will be joining a restructured management sqaud that includes Rod Ellingworth and Dan Hunt, who both joined at the tail end of last year.
“When I stopped racing, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was on this journey of finding out and I was trying new things. I was trying TV and a few other things and it just became more and more apparent that I loved cycling and that I missed the competition,” Cummings said.
“I studied leadership and I think that it just gave me a whole different outlook. I already had a huge appreciation from working with Dave because, regardless of what anyone says, what he’s achieved is just outstanding in terms of Ineos and Sky and his legacy. I just wanted to get back involved and this was my ideal path. I honestly didn’t think it would happen but I definitely wanted to go back to that team.”
Cummings readily admits he will need to learn on the job. He would have been with the team at the Étoile de Bessèges last week of British COVID-19 travel restrictions had been lifted.
The former rider believes that his vast experience will bring a new set of eyes and ears to the team and that his qualities as a rider will add a dimension.
“I think that I’ll bring a few things to the team that I learned as a rider. Firstly: commitment. I’ll give 100 per cent and make all the sacrifices needed. I’ll have humility and respect for everyone that I work with and I’ll be fair,” he said.
“I want to keep learning but those qualities were important to me as a rider and I hope that they’ll transfer with me when I’m talking to the younger riders both when I’m behind the wheel of the team car or in another situation.”
‘At times, maybe the style of racing was robotic’
Although there are familiar faces at the team Cummings left at the end of 2011, he believes that Ineos Grenadiers is entirely different these days.
Bar a few riders like Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift, and Salvatore Puccio, the team are unrecognizable in terms of their roster, and while many of the directors on the team remain in place from Cummings’ riding days, he believes it’s not just the team that has shown evolution over the years.
“It’s completely different but so am I. It’s a completely different team and everything has evolved and developed. It’s grown and it’s exciting. I’m not sure I can really compare it to when I was a rider.
“As far as I’m concerned, I drew a line after that experience and now I’m part of the staff. I see everything as new and it doesn’t matter what I did on a bike; it just matters what I do now as a member of staff.
“I’ve got loads to learn. Someone like Rod has been around races and coaching for around 20 years, so he’s got vast experience. I don’t have that but I do have insight into the race itself and into an athlete. I’ll have to learn from the other directors and it’s about learning from all the amazing people.”
The relationship with Ellingworth goes back years and the pair clashed in the media during Cummings’ latter years after he was overlooked for British road racing teams at a time when Ellingworth was the selector.
Both individuals have put those disagreements behind them, with Cummings stating that he’s always had respect for his new colleague, even if they disagreed over certain aspects.
“The relationship there is really good,” Cummings said.
“Rod has been really supportive. Sometimes as a rider there are going to be moments when you don’t agree with people but ultimately you can still have a huge amount of respect for one another. I think that’s the basis for a really strong relationship.
“What they’ve done really well over time, you don’t want to lose that, but it’s about adding a new dimension. At times, maybe the style of racing was robotic so it’s about being a bit less predictable so part of my role is to work with the group, to understand and figure out how we can make any adjustments or add that dimension to the already existing things that the team does so well.”
Cummings’ career highlights
- 2005 – Turns professional with Landbouwkrediet – Colnago
- 2010 – After spells at Discovery and Baroworld Cummings joins Team Sky
- 2012 – Wins his first Grand Tour stage in BMC Racing colours
- 2015 – Wins his and MTN’s first Tour de France stage when the race reached Mende
- 2016 – Another Tour de France stage win follows, this time into Lac de Payolle
- 2016 – Cummings also takes stage wins in Tirreno Adriatico, the Criterium du Dauphine and the overall title at the Tour of Britain.
- 2017 – Cummings wins both national titles in road race and time trial
- 2019 – Abandons the Tour of Britain and retires at the end of the season.