Saturday 8 October 2011

Cummings to BMC

Bad news for Sky but a sign of progress for cycling
Cummings in 2010 (© Michiel Jelijs CC2.0)
Sky are assembling a strong team for 2012, but they'll keenly feel the departure of Steve Cummings who ill be leaving to ride alongside Thor Hushovd at BMC for the new season. Wirral-born Cummins, 30, has been with the British-based team since the start of 2010 when he joined following the demise of the British-based, South African-sponsored Barloworld.

Steve, who also rode with Johan Bruyneel's Discovery Channel squad in their last incarnation before the team broke up due to sponsorship difficulties, made his mark on cycling aged 17 when he became the first - and to date, the only - junior to ever win the Eddie Soens Memorial Road Race. Primarily known as a time trial specialist, he has also become a formidable climber - even beating the great Alberto Contador to a mountaintop stage finish in this year's Eddie Soens Memorial Road Race, an achievement that put him in the General Classification lead right up until the final stage when Tony Martin took over and won the event. Later in the year, having won second place in the Tour of Britain, he was part of the Team GB that helped project Mark Cavendish across the line to become the first British World Champion since the legendary Tom Simpson in 1965.

BMC, sponsored by the Swiss frame builder of the same name, were invited to compete in the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France for 2010 and performed well enough to earn themselves a ProTeam licence in 2011 - when team member Cadel Evans dominated Andy Schleck in the final time trial to win the General Classification.

Building on that success, manager Jim Oshowicz has brought in ex-World Champ Hushovd and puncheur Philippe Gilbert (who this year became one of only two riders to have won all three Ardennes Classics in a single year, the other being Davide Rebellin), in doing so taking advantage of the very high level of performance among the current generation of cyclists, flashing an obviously adequate amount of cash around to create a superteam potentially able to compete with the new merger-born Radioshack Nissan Trek Pro Cycling Team and Omega-Pharma-Quick-Step, the rapidly-strengthening GreenEdge and so on. This, it would seem, is good news for the sport; evidence that despite the tragic end of HTC-Highroad, the worldwide effort to end doping - which led to the first clean Tour in living memory this year - is finally having its desired effect: leaving cycling with a new, healthy image and bringing the big money sponsors flocking back.

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