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Steve Cummings in form

On the second anniversary of Marco Pantani’s death, Italian cycling kicked off the season with the 43rd Trofeo Laigueglia. The 183.3km race was won by Italian Alessandro Ballan from a 5 man breakaway. British rider Steve Cummings had made this final selection in a tough race that saw only 53 finishers. Well done Steve, it’s great news ahead of his next big target the Commonwealth Games.

In the finale he just missed out by half a wheel length to the experienced Lampre rider, but it confirms that Steve is now a force to be reckoned with in the pro circuit and at 24 still has a long way to go. Why so important? well seeing as this was a 1.1 category race and featured stars like Eric Zabel and Paolo Bettini he’s done very well, perhaps the best performance from a UK based road pro in a few years.

RESULT
1. Alessandro Ballan (Italy) 4.33.15
2. Steve Cummings (Landbouwkredit-Colnago)
3. Rinaldo Noncentini (Italy)
4. Giovanni Visconti (Italy)
5. Pietro Caucchioli (Italy)
6. Leonardo Bertagnolli (Italy) @16 secs
7. Giampaolo Cheula (Italy) @1.06
8. Mirko Celestino (Italy)
9. Giuliano Figueras (Italy)
10. Paolo Bettini (Italy)

Read a full post race interview at British Cycling

England rider pursues medals in three events at Games, as Richard Allchin reported prior to the race yesterday:

The Wirral’s cycling star Steve Cummings, reigning World Champion in the Team Pursuit and also winner of a Silver medal at the Athens Olympic Games, is showing fine form already this season in the build up to the March Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. For the Games, Steve (24) will ride in three events, the Team Pursuit on the track, the Road Race and the Time Trial.

Steve who rides for top Belgian continental professional team, Landbouwkrediet-Colnago, hopes the preparation needed to perform at his best in his triple medal bid will help in preparing for big challenges in the future. Steve also hopes he can find himself in a Pro-Tour team for next year’s Tour de France which is starting in London. Then, he will have the opportunity to challenge the other British cycling stars Bradley Wiggins and Dave Millar in the prologue & other stages). The three all have the special talents that could see them winning the 2007 Tours first Yellow Jersey after the opening prologue.

Steve said of his Game’s challenges, “yes I should be riding three events at the Commonwealth Games. It’s a big ask but the preparation will provide experience for my future, including the next Olympics and major pro events. The Commonwealth Games are big in the UK (and other Commonwealth countries) but mean little or nothing in Europe which is where I hope I can make a big impression this season so I can get in a Tour team next year.”

“I would love to get a Gold Medal in the Games however the rest of the season is also still very important for me so I will have to use my time and form wisely. I am feeling great at the moment and can’t wait to race again after coming so close to a good win in France. I am working very hard and my lab tests are my best ever despite feeling I have more in the tank. We will see I guess, but it’s going to be a hard year. I will as always though do my very best.”

Cumming’s good form was confirmed when 3rd on stage three of the ‘Etoile De Besseges’ (France), the first stage race in continental Europe this year. Steve (24) was in a long break with 12 other riders in the 134 km stage. Unfortunately for him, two riders were from top French team Francaise des Jeux and they took advantage of their strong position to grab first and second place. Cummings though almost managed second place with a late attack and said afterwards “the racing here has been hard and fast everyday and very cold with snow everywhere. I felt good today and wanted to go for the stage win, however being outnumbered by FDJ, catching Leblacher was a big ask under the circumstances. However I nearly caught his team-mate (Joly) on the line.”

“I have worked hard and I am feeling good and with the Commonwealth Games (Track and road) coming up in March and the World track Champs in April, I am optimistic about Gold medals. After those events, I can concentrate on the road. I want some good wins especially with the Tour de France coming to London in 2007. I hope to be in a team that will ride the Tour that year so maybe Wiggins and Millar will not be the only British riders to look out for.”

Team-mate and fellow World Champion team pursuiter Paul Manning, who joined Steve’s pro team this year at 31 is enjoying his debut with the top professionals and is settling in well. Paul felt he might be able to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves in the near future, despite like Steve having the Commonwealth Games and World track championships coming up. Paul, who has won several pro-am events on the continent riding for Great Britain, as happy with his pro debut.

He said “I am enjoying riding with my new team and I am sure I will get some good chances on the road after from the track championships. The Tour of Britain will be a big target but there will be a lot of races in between. It’s great riding for a big pro team and with Steve. I am really looking forward to this season perhaps more than I have for a long time.”

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