Despite hinting earlier this year that 2018 might be his final season, 18-year pro Svein Tuft has signed up for a least one more year, penning a deal with US Pro Continental team Rally Cycling after riding for Australia's WorldTour Mitchelton-Scott and Orica teams for the past eight years.
Tuft told Cyclingnews earlier this year that 2018 could be his last season, and he admitted in May that the Giro d'Italia would likely be is last Grand Tour, leading to speculation that the Canadian planned to retire. But that changed for Tuft when Rally performance director Jonas Carney, Tuft's former teammate on Prime Alliance in 2002, visited him in Spain.
"The chance to ride for a North American team with a bunch of Canadians came along in Rally Cycling and I couldn't refuse," Tuft said in a statement released by the team. "Sharing all that I have learned is what motivates me these days, and I couldn't imagine a better team to do that with. One of the aspects I've really enjoyed on my current team, Michelton-Scott, has been sharing my years of experience with the younger fellas. The chance to do that with my fellow North Americans making that jump to Europe was very appealing to me."
Tuft, an 11-time and reigning Canadian time trial champion, is a powerhouse rider known for his ability to drive the bunch. During his career, the 41-year-old Canadian has anchored team time trial squads that claimed stage wins at the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, Eneco Tour and Tirreno Adriatico.
Carney said that signing an experienced rider like Tuft was important for the 2019 roster. With veteran rider Danny Pate retiring after this season, the role of experienced mentor opened up.
"We have a lot of talented young riders on our team who are capable of making the transition to Europe, and it's important that we have a veteran rider with lots of European experience to mentor those guys," Carney said. "For three years Danny Pate filled that role, but with Pate retiring and our European schedule expanding, it was more important than ever that we fill that position. Svein was the perfect fit for us. He knows all the races, is well respected in the European peloton, can operate as a road captain and sets a great example off the bike."
Aside from Carney, Tuft also raced previously with Rally team director Eric Wohlberg and team manager Jake Erker on the Canadian Symmetrics squad from 2005 to 2008. Erker watched Tuft rise through the ranks from division-three North American teams to the sport's top tier.
"Svein is a perfect example of a North American athlete that evolved from conquering the America's Tour, to captaining a WorldTour program in Europe," Erker said. "He ticks off all of the boxes in seeking a guide through the European peloton, and I'm thrilled to have him as a part of our growing program."
Tuft has competed in 13 Grand Tours during his career and in Classics including Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders and Milan-San Remo. He returned to Canada in June and raced the Tour de Beauce with the Canadian national team, placing second in the time trial stage and 10th overall.
"My role with Rally Cycling will really be about support," Tuft said. "I've done pretty much every WorldTour race on the calendar and understand the difficulties of transitioning from North America to Europe. The biggest difference is not in physical ability, but it's in all the other details of European racing. Distance, pace, technical ability, reading the race, lifestyle and time are really the main factors. So, my goal will be to share as much of my knowledge that I can and then within the race help them through positioning and navigating the European peloton."