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HAIFA, Israel (VN) — Svein Tuft always wants to savor the moment. Whether that means helping his teammates win races or sneaking away to have a peek at the Western Wall, the veteran professional lives in the present.
Tuft turns 41 on Wednesday and wants to make the most of this Giro d’Italia. The Mitchelton-Scott veteran said it’s probably his last.
“At the moment my mind is pretty clear on that,” Tuft said of riding his final Giro. “I never say never — things can change. Maybe I’ll race the Vuelta. Either way, I’ve had a great run.”
Tuft said he will likely retire at the end of 2018, but the final decision has not quite been made. The birth of his first child, a son named Gunnar, over the winter is helping to nudge him toward retirement.
“It’s harder and harder to be away from home,” Tuft said. “At this age, babies are changing week to week, day to day. It’s hard to miss those moments.”
At 40, Tuft is the oldest rider in the 101st edition of the Italian grand tour and he knows that all things must come to an end. He wants to end his legendary career on his terms. It’s better to walk away from professional cycling than to be told you’re no longer needed.
“I’ve had a great run,” Tuft said as he prepared for the second stage at the Giro. “I feel more fortunate than anything that I’ve been able to do. For me, it’s been awesome. It’s hard to make that decision, but it has to be done at some point.”
Tuft is an iconoclast in a sport full of physical freaks. The Canadian followed an untraditional path into the sport. In his late teens, he would go on summer-long bicycle trips across the Canadian outback and Alaska. He was turned onto bike racing almost as a fluke. A friend told him about racing, and since he was already a keen cyclist, he signed up. He was immediately hooked on the speed, adrenaline and pain.
His reputation for pure power quickly bounced around the tightknit Canadian peloton. Some promising regional results soon opened doors to the possibility of turning pro in 2001. A silver medal in the 2008 world time trial championships led to his first major pro contract with Slipstream the following season.
Since then, he’s been a reliable workhorse and consummate team player. In 2012, he joined the start-up GreenEdge franchise and developed into their team captain and spiritual anchor.
Tuft’s won 11 professional races and wore the pink jersey after victory in the team time trial stage to open the 2014 Giro d’Italia in Belfast. In a measure of respect, the team wanted him to wear the maglia rosa.
Tuft has always done things his way. Whether it’s meditating in a patch of forest before the start of a stage or following his own unique diet and training programs, Tuft worked his way to the elite of professional cycling.
He’s not about to change anything in what might be his grand tour last hurrah.
“Both [Esteban] Chaves and [Simon] Yates are flying. They’re not the clear, clear favorites, but if they have a good day on the right stage, they can make something happen,” Tuft said. “We have to take it day by day, and that’s my job to keep them out of trouble. They need to conserve and wait for that right moment. It’s my job to help get them there.”