BMC Racing Team rider Stephen Cummings (R) of Britain cycles during the 13th stage of the Tour of Spain “La Vuelta” cycling race between Santiago de Compostela and Ferrol, August 31, 2012. (REUTERS/Miguel Vidal)
By Alasdair Fotheringham
FERROL, Spain, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Britain’s Steven Cummings, who has had a season full of thrills and spills, sprinted to the biggest win of his career on stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana on Friday.
Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain retained the overall lead ahead of countryman Alberto Contador and third-placed Briton Chris Froome.
Part of a six-rider, day-long break, the 31-year-old Cummings dropped his rivals 3-km from the finish to grab his first victory in a Grand Tour.
Australia’s Cameron Meyer was second, four seconds back, with Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha third.
Cummings broke his pelvis during the Tour of the Algarve in February and his left wrist in April while racing in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.
The BMC Racing rider then crashed again during the Tour of California and the Tour de France.
“It’s been a long, hard year and I crashed really badly in the Tour de France so I wasn’t sure of my condition when I came here,” Cummings told reporters.
“But I knew if I got through the first week alright things could start to get better.”
Cummings, a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, said he knew most of the attention would be on the leading riders towards the end of the stage.
“I had to make one big attack and make it count. It was the perfect moment to go,” he explained.
A dedicated team worker, Cummings was the only Briton in this year’s Tour de France not to win a stage so achieving a lifelong ambition in Spain held extra significance.
“When I was a kid I always watched the Giro d’Italia, Tour and Vuelta and dreamed of taking a stage in one of them,” he said.
“But opportunities are very limited particularly if you’re working for a team leader. I don’t feel I’ve reached my top condition yet.
“Hopefully there are a few more stage wins out there for the team in the Vuelta.”
Race leader Rodriguez is 13 seconds clear of Contador, competing in a main Tour for the first time since serving a doping ban.
Saturday’s stage, the first of three high mountain stages in succession, is expected to shake up the leaderboard.
Race leader Rodriguez said anything could happen over the next three days.
“I’ve only got a 13-second advantage and if I’m still in the lead on Tuesday then I would say I’m best-placed to win but not now,” he said.
The race ends in Madrid on Sept. 9.