Svein Tuft Gets PEZ’d!
His granddad represented Norway in the 1936 Winter Olympics – maybe that’s why he used to take off into the wilds with just his bike and dog for company – he was the 2007 UCI Americas Tour winner; this year he won four golds at the Pan Am Games – and he was an excellent seventh in the Olympic TT at Beijing. He’s four times Canadian elite time trial champion, Svein Tuft.
PEZ: Congratulations on Beijing, Svein – but are you still doing that ‘wilderness thing?’
Svein: Not as often as I used to, but come the off-season I’ll be taking off into the wilds with my skis, I’m fascinated by mountains and I love the freedom you experience out there.
PEZ: You were with Mercury in 2001; that ended pretty badly for all concerned – is that why you’re not in Europe?
Svein: For sure, it kinda jaded me, as far as Europe goes, I didn’t have a lot of experience – I came late to racing, 23 – and I didn’t know how European racing went.
I had an engine, but it was a whole new world and John Worden, the manager was just so focused on the business side of things.
When I came back to North America, I signed with Prime Alliance, it was a good team and I was there for two years, but again I was in over my head, I didn’t have the knowledge and I ‘burnt out.’
I took a little time away from cycling after that and came back with the Symmetrics, the team I’m still with.
We started small, but have built up and the last two years have been our best ever; we’re performing in events like the Tour of Georgia and Philly Week.
PEZ: You won the UCI Americas Tour in 2007.
Svein: Yeah, that was one of our big goals for last year; we won the team and individual titles.
It meant that Canada had three riders at Beijing, instead of two, and it will be the same for the Worlds.
PEZ: You had a very successful Pan Am Games this year, road and track.
Svein: I won the time trial plus the pursuit, points and Madison. You need the same endurance base, road or track, but obviously there’s a lot more speed work involved on the track.
The Games were in Montevideo, Uruguay this year though, and it was a big, rough, windy outdoor track – it was just about raw power; speeds weren’t as high as they are on an indoor velodrome and that suited me down to the ground.
Leading the UCI Americas Tour in Gastown in ’07.
PEZ: How did you prepare for Beijing?
Svein: I won the Tour of Beauce in Quebec so I knew I had good climbing form – you can’t win there if you don’t.
I did a ton of motor pacing to prepare for the time trial; I reckon my dad paced me 2,500, maybe 3,000 kilometres in training!
Prior to Beijing the Canadian cycling squad went to Kyoto in Japan for eight days, it’s on the same temperature and time zones as Beijing and it got us used to what we could expect.
It was very humid, but with Symmetrics we race a lot in the tropical regions of Southern America, so we’re used to it.
Some guys just fall apart in the heat, but I’ve had a lot of experience.
Tuft is no stranger to tough road races – he won a testing US Open last spring.
PEZ: You finished the road race on Saturday; 245 kilometres – that’s not ideal TT preparation!
Svein: I felt great in the road race; the hardest part was the last two laps when Sastre and Contador put the hammer down, I started to feel the pinch then!
The distance is hard for us on the North American circuit, apart from Philly (260 K) you’re just not competing over that distance.
But I felt good all day – until those last two laps.
PEZ: Your goal for the time trial?
Svein: I would have been happy with top 20 and delighted with top 15; but on the day I was confident and motivated to do well.
PEZ: Race strategy?
Svein: One of the things I was pleased with about my race was that I stuck to my plan for the ride.
The biggest trick was to conserve energy the first time up the climb – I think I was only 23rd fastest, riding at a tempo I knew I could hold comfortably, but use my track speed and ability to pedal fast on the descent; I think I was third fastest down.
But for me, the race was the second time up the climb, give it everything, then ride the last descent with what was left – and that’s what I did.
[Svein rode 55/44 on 11 to 23 with Vittoria tubulars.]
PEZ: What about the course?
Svein: There weren’t a whole lot of tricky turns; it was a course you could ‘flow’ round. It was also very special and beautiful, with the Great Wall right there.
It was hard to tell if the spectators were proper bike fans though, or had just been bussed in to wave flags – I heard that the real fans found it hard to get good places to watch the racing.
PEZ: You were in that medallists’ holding pen for an age.
Svein: Yes, It was quite an occasion! It never really occurred to me that I could get a medal, but when nobody from the second wave bettered my time, I began to think; ‘anything can happen!’
Steve Cummings (GB) and Robert Gesink (Netherlands) were there with me and we were having a laugh about the big names that were coming in, but not dislodging us.
A medal would have been fantastic, but having ridden the way I did, I’d have been delighted to be 39th of 39; I prepared and rode as well as I possibly could have – you can’t do anymore.
There is no doubting Mr. Tuft on the topic.
PEZ: And the rest of 2008?
Svein: I’ve just decide that I’m going to focus on the road and time trial Worlds in Varese, I have the Tour of Missouri first, but after that it’ll be about preparing for Italy.
PEZ would like to thank Svein for his time and wish him ‘all the best’ for Varese – we’ll be there, keeping an eye out for him!