A third Tour de France stage win in as many years proved too much to ask from Steve Cummings after he battled back from an injury-plagued start to the season.
But the 36-year-old will leave Paris proud to have made it to the end of a race he could not even be sure he would start until the week before the Grand Depart in Dusseldorf.
Cummings was only able to resume training in late May following an early April crash in which he fractured his collarbone, scapula and sternum, but he rebounded to win the British national road race and time trial in June. That performance sealed his ticket to the Tour, and gave him hope he might have the legs to pull off another victory.
“I have to be honest with myself,” he said. “My wife pointed out it was May 28 I started back on the road. It’s not been ideal preparation, but I wanted to get to this point and know I’d done everything I can to try and do something good in the Tour. I have to be proud.”
Cummings’ sports director Roger Hammond had said Team Dimension Data felt like the world was against them at times during the Tour.
They lost star sprinter Mark Cavendish when he crashed out on stage four, and then saw Edvald Boasson Hagen twice be denied in photo finishes and twice finish third. But the run of frustration was ended on Friday when the Norwegian won in Salon-de-Provence.
“I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get the result, but super happy Edvald won and for the team,” Cummings added. “It’s been difficult this year, Cav’s been sick and I’ve been injured, but we never stopped fighting and nobody deserved it more than Eddy. We can all be happy.”
Cummings’ best day came on stage 12 to Peyragudes, where he went solo out of the breakaway and threatened to stay clear before being caught on the Col de Peyresourde.
“I just pride myself on doing my best and that was my best,” he said. “That day I was physically as good as I’ve been on any other day in my career. Obviously you want to win but you can’t win all the time.”
Cummings now hopes to line up in the Tour of Britain, a race he won in 2016, before heading to the World Championships at the end of the season.
He is expected to sign a new two-year contract with Dimension Data, and said he is loving life at a team where a big part of the focus is on supporting the Qhubeka charity, which distributes bikes in Africa to help people access education and work.
“I love the team and I love the project,” he said. “It’s not just a business, it’s about giving people hope and raising money. This is powerful stuff and it puts it into perspective.
“The Tour de France seems so important when you’re in it, it’s a bubble, but in the scheme of things we’re so lucky. It’s a good feeling when you’re maybe inspiring people to donate. Nothing’s done yet (on a contract), but it’s been a good discussion and hopefully we can sign something soon.”