PEDARA, Italy (VN) — Svein Tuft (Orica-Scott) celebrated his 40th birthday Tuesday doing what he does best: racing hard, working for his teammates, and soaking it all in.
The tough-as-nails Canadian was all smiles when he arrived on the Mount Etna summit at the end of the Giro d’Italia’s stage 4. Racing up the side of Europe’s largest active volcano is just what you’d imagine Tuft doing on his 40th birthday.
“I try and enjoy it. It’s not every day that you race up a volcano in Sicily,” Svein said at the line. “It’s pretty special.”
Tuft has reached legendary status within in the peloton, both for his ox-like strength on the bike, and idiosyncrasies away from the race. Who else hikes barefoot in the woods and skis off-piste over the winter as part of his cross-training program?
“I grew up ski touring and skiing my whole life,” said Tuft, who lives in Andorra during the racing season. “Right from my back door, on a good powder day, I can throw on my skins, and have a good day in the backcountry. It’s a good mix of having fun, but it’s a good workout, too. If they told me I couldn’t ski, I probably give up racing first!”
Tuft is one of those steadfast domestiques that pulls the hard yards on the flats, and steps back to let the winners win. He doesn’t win much — just 10 races in his career, including a stint in the pink jersey in the 2014 Giro — because he’s laying the groundwork for others.
“He does things different, and it works for him,” said Orica-Scott’s sport director Matt White. “I’ve been working with him for nine years, and when we created this team, he was one of the first guys I wanted to bring. He brings a lot to the team.”
With Orica supporting Caleb Ewan in the sprints and Adam Yates for the GC during this Giro, Tuft is in for a busy month.
So how does he do it at 40? A few factors: he turned pro in his mid-20s and didn’t make his Tour de France debut until he was 36. He’s never had a serious, career-threatening injury, and Tuft takes care of himself, practicing yoga and living what he called a “holistic” approach to professional racing.
“I have to say, I feel pretty good. Age doesn’t feel like much of a factor,” Tuft said. “It is more a holistic approach to life. Instead of trying to pin yourself for one massive peak in your career, but if you look after yourself in all aspects of life, it pays off, and you can have a good, balanced career. I always thought consistency, [rather] than thrashing yourself for a month or two, and being totally hammered for three.”
White confirmed to VeloNews that it’s likely that Tuft will be in an Orica-Scott jersey for 2018, and perhaps beyond.
“I think we’ll get another year out of him, for sure,” White said. “The key thing is that he started so late. Mentally, he is not burned-out. He appreciates where he is now in his life, and he enjoys his cycling. Everyone has a life span in professional sport, and when you start later, you can go longer.”
Tuft, too, said he sees no reason to stop now. He’s having too much fun.