Gravel

The Grind: Svein Tuft rides to the start of a 2,000km race — from Andorra

The retired WorldTour racer is signed up for GBDuro, a 2,000km self-supported race across Britain. And of course he rode to the start — from three countries away.

The Grind is a weekly column on all things gravel. 

During his racing days, Canadian Svein Tuft impressed fans with his feats of strength on the bike, and impressed his fellow racers with his life outside racing. Things like fighting off a wolf with a hockey stick, riding to team camp in California — from Canada, or riding to Alaska — from Vancouver — on a $40 mountain bike while pulling a trailer with his heavy dog and camping supplies.

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Now retired from WorldTour racing, Tuft has signed up for GBDuro, the self-sufficient 2,000km race across the length of Britain, from Land’s End in the southwest to John O’Groats in the northeast. Last year EF Pro Cycling’s Lachlan Morton won it. Beginning August 1 this year, the route includes road, gravel, and singletrack, but no outside support or even provisions of any kind. In short, it’s perfect for Tuft.

“I really like the format this year: You can’t buy anything, you can’t stop anywhere for shelter or to get food anywhere,” Tuft said. “That is right up my alley for sure.”

One little side note: The man is currently riding to the start. From his adopted home in Andorra.

“It’s been a funny little mission,” Tuft said from France. “I rode across from Andorra up to northern France, up into the Bretagne region. The plan was to take a ferry across and then ride down to Land’s End. The trip across France was great, and allowed for some time with the family.”

Once at the ferry crossing, however, coronavirus complications ensued.

“They know don’t allow for walk-ons because of covid, and I couldn’t even buy a scheduled ticket without a vehicle. So I rented a car just to be able to get on the ferry, and now I am going to take the ferry across and just park the car on the other side, which is just ridiculous,” he said.

I asked him how long he expects the actual GBDuro event to take.

“I don’t know, man. This is not my specialty in racing these things,” he said. “I am out for the experience. Just going into unknown territories, I like that. The logistics and all this other crap, I didn’t sign up for that. But at that point I had put a lot of resources into it, so I was like, I’m fucking all in.”

A total of 14 people have signed up for the event, which was modified this year to forbid stopping at stores for food. Last year racers could buy provisions along the way, they just couldn’t have a support crew. The event also banned riders from flying to the start this year to reduce pollution.

“Who knows how long it will take,” Tuft said of the GBDuro. “Filtering your own water… these things can all add some proper time to your day. The extra load of all the extra food. By the second half of the trip, things should start going faster.”

The GBDuro has a real-time tracker that currently is tracking the racers as they commute to the event. You can read about the race and the non-profit promoter, The Racing Collective, on the club’s website.