Suddenly left without a contract for the upcoming season, Tuft was quickly picked up by Steve Bauer’s SpiderTech p/b C10 squad and the Langley, BC rider was really home in a leadership role with many former teammates.
Tuft went on to have a remarkable 2011 season racing with Bauer’s squad, winning big at the national level, but also continuing his success in Europe. Tuft, now 34, was responsible for SpiderTech’s first UCI victories and most recently a win at the prestigious Grand Prix Stad Zottegem in Belgium.
But the festivities in the SpiderTech camp were short-lived as soon after Zottegem, Tuft announced that he would be leaving SpiderTech to race with GreenEdge, the new Australian UCI Pro team.
We caught up with the Canadian cycling legend at his home in BC soon after the news of his move was announced.
Congrats on your signing with GreenEdge… obviously a hard blow for SpiderTech. How does this strategic move play into the hopes and dreams of Svein Tuft?
Svein Tuft: I wanted to get back to racing at the WT level and it’s just one of those things that happen. Last year I didn’t want to leave the WT level and when the Pegasus thing happened, I was fortunate enough to have Steve [Bauer] bail me out and I can’t thank him enough.
I know what it’s like to race at the WT level and at the tail end of a career I think it’s important to try and get back there if you have something to give, but nonetheless, it was a super-tough decision, because I believe in what the team is doing and I loved being with the team. But all the guys understand and are being super positive.
When the Pegasus project fell through, how hard was it to keep your focus and drive?
ST: It’s really hard to get news like that in late December when you’re usually preparing and focusing on the upcoming season. I think it may have hindered the beginning of the year but I quickly pulled it around and got some positive results for SpiderTech.
How important a role did SpiderTech play in your re-birth so to speak?
ST: Very important. They gave me a good home and I was amongst guys that I’ve raced with for many years. You know, sometimes you could end up on an all-Italian team and have to deal with a language barrier, etc. They gave me a great place to get back at it and it was fun being around many guys I knew. For some of them it was all new and very exciting and I could also feed off of that energy.
You finally have a Canadian Road Championship title to go with your seven ITT medals and recently won the Grand Prix Stad Zottegem in Belgium… are you doing anything different?
ST: I don’t know, I just feel like I’ve gotten back to where I’m supposed to be. To do well at this level you have to be dedicated and it’s all about the mind and SpiderTech helped keep me positive.
What goals do you now have moving forward – short term / long term i.e. the TdF, Worlds, London?
ST: I feel like I gained a lot out of the last block of racing in Europe. I’d like to do the Canadian WorldTours and then the Road World’s in Denmark. Longer term I’d like to have a good spring campaign and then do a Grand Tour or two and the Olympics of course.
What do you foresee as a major challenge in returning to the WorldTour level?
ST: I’m pretty familiar with it as I’ve done pretty much every race there. The challenge is staying in top form and also keeping your focus and dedication for the entire year. From January to October, it’s a long season and I want to be effective at every race and that takes a lot of energy and I’m always trying to improve on that.
Do you know what the game plan is for next year and the role you will be playing on your new team, i.e. domestique, and if so and for whom?
ST: We have a huge focus on one-day races and classic style races and we have a lot of fast guys on the team. I’m familiar with how things work from having worked with Garmin. The usual role is in riding for the team but when you come into good form your day will come as well. If you ride in good form it shows. You can work for another guy and still make the front group and when you’re doing your job on both ends, people see that and your day will come. I’ve always been a big believer in that.
If you had a dream list of realistic future accomplishments what would they be?
ST: I take things one day at a time and cycling is a treat. It’s more about the journey and I take a lot of satisfaction in some of the lesser moments. Like finishing in 20th place but the team had a plan and everyone gave everything and everyone was committed. It’s about the experiences.
Would returning to the Tour de France and obtaining a stage victory be on your wish list?
ST: That’s pretty much everyone’s dream. It goes back to being in your best form on that special day and making it happen.
You’re back in Canada now – when does your new contract officially start and does this mean that the racing season over for you?
ST: We just got back home and I’m still committed to racing with the team until December 31. I was hoping to do the WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal and give everything there, but when I last looked at the start lists my name wasn’t there. [at the time of this interview Tuft’s name did appear on the start list for the Canadian WorldTour races but he is racing this weekend for SpiderTech read more HERE – ed]
Where will we be seeing you race after the Quebec and Montreal WorldTour events?
ST: At the Road World Championships in Copenhagen in September.
As for as the challenges ahead, how do you feel both physically and mentally?
ST: One of the bonuses about getting older is the maturity it brings. I know to stick to the plan and have faith through experience and I have a much more relaxed outlook. I’m not stressing and trying to force things…it’s a nice place to be. I feel good but physically you don’t change much over these years. The most important thing is that your head’s in the game.
During this time off how will you prepare for your return to Europe – physical / mental preparation? Will you be doing anything differently than in the past?
ST: For the Worlds I will be better prepared this year. Last year I got in good form and tried to hold it from the end of July until the Worlds which was too long.
Any additional comments you’d like to make for your fans in Canada and abroad?
ST: I’m working on a book about my life and cycling career which should be interesting reading. I love the sport so much but I’m very low key. Perhaps I would have probably been better suited being a farmer or something like that.
Thank you for your time and best of luck in the future.