Steve Cummings breaks the break and wins a stage of the Vuelta

There are several reasons why the day’s break is such an important part of bike racing. In most cases, the sheer hope-over-logic glorious bone-headedness of the enterprise is hugely pleasing (even if it is, in reality, largely motivated by a desire to increase sponsors’ exposure). There’s also the fact that it gives worthy, overlooked riders some recognition. That was the case yesterday as Steve Cummings from the Wirral recorded the biggest win of his career.

Like Ian Stannard, Steve Cummings is a big guy by road cycling standards: 6ft 3in and over 12st. His job is essentially to serve as a giant windbreak for his team leader. It’s not the kind of job that gets the girls:

“What do you do for a living?”

“I break wind.”

However, yesterday Cummings got in the break and had a chance to go for the win. We therefore got to experience the other great thing about breaks: the ever-changing alliances.

For most of the day, the guys in the break had the same goal: to stay away from the peloton. At a certain point, they concluded that they were probably going to succeed and then their goals shifted and the truce was called off. Some riders wanted everyone stay together because they were the best sprinters, while the others wanted rid of them for the very same reason.

But when do you break from the break? Go on your own to soon and the guys behind you will share the work and bring you back. Wait too long and someone else might go before you, breaking the break and creating an every-man-for-himself situation. The latter is pretty much what Steve Cummings managed.

He attacked and was able to maintain a speed that not everyone could match. This meant only a couple of riders were chasing him and even though one of them was the monstrously powerful Juan Antonio Flecha, they couldn’t catch him.

Yesterday, Steve Cummings was breaking wind only for himself.