With his 41st birthday just a few weeks away, Svein Tuft has told Cyclingnews that 2018 is likely his final year in the professional ranks. The Canadian has been part of the Mitchelton-Scott team since their inception in 2012 and has become a mainstay of their Classics and Grand Tour squads. A reliable domestique and fine time trialist in his own right, Tuft has forged a career as one of the most respected riders on the circuit. But with a young family and time moving on, he believes the moment is right to find a new direction in life.
"I haven't said it 100 per cent but I think this will be my last year and my last Giro d'Italia. I've been doing this a long time now, so that's a bit daunting to think about as it's been a big part of my life, but I'm also excited about part two. I have a son, he's six months old, and there's real importance in that. It's more than racing," Tuft told Cyclingnews on the morning of stage 1 at the Tour de Romandie.
Determined to give it everything in his last season, Tuft is excited by the prospect of racing one final Giro d'Italia. It's a race he has fond memories of, having been part of the Orica squad that won the opening team time trial in 2014. Tuft carried the team over the line that day in Belfast and pulled on the maglia rosa as a result.
He has never been a rider who relentlessly sought results for himself, although a World Championship time trial silver medal sits nicely next to a pink jersey on his palmares. Instead, Tuft's strengths have always been a willingness to sacrifice himself for others and a strong engine that can be deployed on the front of the bunch or at the spearhead of a team time trial squad. When asked about his fondest memory of a career stretching back to 2001, he picked a moment that encapsulated his desire to work as part of a team.
"There have been quite a few special moments, but I would probably say my first Tour, when we won the team time trial in Nice," he said, pointing to the 2013 Tour de France when the Australian team won the stage and put Simon Gerrans and then Daryl Impey into the maillot jaune.
"That was big for me because I was brought in this team for that sort of race and I had a hell of a day, and the best legs of my life. It's rare to have days like that when everything aligns at a big and important moment. That was really special, but on this team, there have been a lot of special moments."
It's worth remembering how close some of those memories were to never transpiring because, at one point in Tuft's career, it looked as though his WorldTour days were completely behind him. He left Slipstream at the end of 2010 for the Pegasus team that folded before they'd even raced. He was picked up by Spidertech at the start of 2011 and used the season to rebuild his career before Matt White – who had worked with Tuft at Slipstream – offered him a route back to Europe. Since then Tuft and Mitchelton-Scott have never looked back.
"I wouldn't be riding if it wasn't for a team like this because it's a place where I could develop. I came to Europe late, but they've given me the space to be who I am, and it's a great group of people. We've still got a number of the core people left from the start of the team and we've kept that culture. It's been awesome," he said.
"If l look back to when I was in my early 20s I didn't know about bike racing at all. My first race was when I was 23. If you'd told me then I'd be doing what I'm doing now I would have called you nuts. I had seen the Tour de France on TV but I didn't understand it at all. It wasn't something that I really liked or found interesting. I never had big ambitions when I came to Europe. It was always about seeing what happened."
Tuft and those who have followed his career trajectory will have plenty of time to reminisce late in the winter when he finally hangs up his wheels and calls time. Until then there's the Giro d'Italia to focus on, and one final Grand Tour for Tuft to give his all for the team.
"The Giro is always a special one because it's a beautiful race but it's also one of the hardest. Our team is always growing and developing and now we have two GC capabilities. It's a lot of work but I really enjoy that aspect of it, and trying to help those guys out."