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Svein Tuft: From survivorman to cyclist

Tuft scored points in Missouri

Tuft scored points in Missouri (Image credit: Jon Devich)

He's wrapped up the UCI America Tour even before the season's end, and now, current Canadian time trial champion Svein Tuft is on his way to the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany with a three year contract with his Symmetrics team in hand. Tuft spoke with Cyclingnews' reporter Kirsten Robbins in a first time interview that reveals a hearty outdoorsman who spent time surviving in the Canadian wilderness underneath the skin of a successful professional cyclist.

Svein Tuft didn't come to the world of road cycling through the traditional route - nor has his life been even remotely what one would consider 'traditional'. The Langley, British Columbia native wandered away from a typical lifestyle in his mid-teens and into a more than three year journey of train-hopping, outdoor survival and long-distance travels that taught him more about life's serenities than most people could learn in a lifetime. But it was also a journey that provided him the mental toughness and endurance which are key to life as a professional cyclist.

Attracted to the outdoors, it was mountaineering that grabbed his attention and he ventured off the beaten path for more than three years away from home, headed through the coastal range and the Rocky Mountains. "I got into bike touring because I was into mountaineering first," Tuft explained as he sat back and waited to board his flight to Germany. "I didn't have a lot of money, I was living here and there and I was traveling around climbing, doing different trips. Biking seemed to be the cheapest way of doing that. I would ride up into central BC, the coastal range and base myself out of there in the back country where I ran into a lot of bad weather; rain or snow. But, I made my own trailer and I would load it up with my dog and do long trips out there."

At twenty years old, Tuft was hooked on traveling by bicycle and realized the bike could take him a lot further than just the next mountain to climb. "I went up to Alaska and for two years I was living on the road, traveling down to Mexico and back up to Alaska again," said Tuft. "I never owned anything or had any type of savings in the bank. I relied on meeting people along the way and I'd work in one place for a short while until I had enough money to move on. I never mapped out anything or went on a time line."

The rugged outdoorsman soon found tranquility in jumping cargo trains across Canada, with no intention on where he was headed. "I was kind of just hobo'in around," said Tuft. "But, jumping the trains brought me one of the best moments in my life, on a train to Northern Alberta. My friend, Ivan Drury and I hopped on a grain car, which were the best cars because there was a top on them to keep the grain dry. We were rolling through the last little bit of the Rocky's and the northern lights lit up the sky. To be able to see the entire Rocky skyline on a warm night was amazing."

"We never cared where the trains went, it was all about where ever they ended up," added Tuft. "You have no control over the trains, they just end up where they end up. If you have plans, you shouldn't hop a train."

Tuft got his hands on his first road bike after coming home from a long trip. He was hired at a local bike shop to repair bikes based on the knowledge he gained over his years of traveling with a worn out hunk of metal. "The bike I toured around on was a used bike from Value Village," recalled Tuft. "By the time I got back it had a complete knew set of parts because everything broke on it, part by part.

To read the full interview, click here.

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Kirsten Frattini

Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.