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Tuft: I finally started learning how to race in Belgium

Svein Tuft knew there was an element of risk involved in signing with then-UCI WorldTour-hopefuls GreenEdge but despite having been burnt less than 12 months earlier in the demise of Pegasus Sport, it was a risk the Canadian was more than willing to take.

Back in Australia, and what feels like a lifetime away from the now-infamous Pegasus training camp in Noosa, Tuft was assured by the fact that GreenEdge had been successful where their Australian-predecessors had not, and was genuinely excited by what lies ahead.

"I tell you, being here has just been a treat. The whole time, the organisation has just been dialled-in and top-notch and just a whole other ball game with these guys," Tuft told Cyclingnews in Melbourne, his immediate future secured with confirmation that GreenEdge had received a WorldTour license.

"The thing was, I knew that coming in were a lot of the people I've worked with before and I know how they operate. It's always 100 percent professional and that was my expectation so things like the WorldTour license and everything else, it's always something in cycling until they get the deal on the dotted line and until the exact date you never really know but these guys, I had a lot of confidence."

Now aged 34, Tuft is facing the twilight of his career having started racing competitively 12 years ago, so time is of the essence. It's a factor that played a huge role in him jumping ship from first-year Canadian Pro Continental outfit Spidertech where he found refuge in the wake of the Pegasus collapse – but it certainly was no easy decision.

"In a team like Spidertech it was all friends and like a whole other family for me as well so that made it a really difficult decision and I don't think that it was one that anyone was too happy about making, but that's how it goes," he said.

Reality has a habit of being harsh beast and Tuft's was that he realised he was better suited to what GreenEdge had to offer – being able to race the day-to-day in cycling's top tier and be an effective teammate.

Given the strong sprinting outlook of GreenEdge in their inaugural year, it's no surprise that Tuft is expecting to find himself right in the thick of the train, pulling some big turns for the team just before it comes to the crunch and guys like Matt Goss chase the win. Tuft will be there beside Stuart O'Grady and Jens Mouris hoping that the numbers game plays out in GreenEdge's favour.

"Everyone knows their role and I think the nicest thing is the horsepower we have and the experienced guys, it means that large numbers of our guys will make it deeper in to the race and that's the best way to race," Tuft said.

Tuft, current Canadian road and time trial champion, will begin his 2012 season in Mallorca before moving on to Paris-Nice with the squad split between France and Italy with Goss targeting Tirreno-Adriatico, followed by the Classics and the Giro d'Italia.

There is no doubt that Tuft will be playing an important role for his new team and he will have the odd opportunity to go it alone, making the most of his considerable skill against the clock in prologues and then in the shorter stage races like Eneco Tour and the Tour of Denmark where he finished second overall in 2010. And then there's his Classics ambitions – a style of racing Tuft feels he's finally getting a handle on.

"My Classics are always a big objective," Tuft told Cyclingnews, echoing the sentiments of the team. "E3 Prijs is something that I'd really love do well at. The course is kind of like a mini-Flanders, I'd love to say Flanders is something that I'm capable of but I just haven't proven myself to that depth in a 260km race so until I do I don't really want to talk big."

This season's outing at the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke produced a watershed moment for Tuft, where he finished 13th overall, just over a minute behind race winner, Fabian Cancellara.

"I finally started learning how to race in Belgium," he said a matter-of-factly. "It's time. I think that everyone has this thing where coming from North America or whatever that they're going to jump right in to full-on results like they were and it just doesn't transfer. It's a time thing and you need to spend a year or two just banging away on the cobbles and doing those races. The biggest thing is knowing the course and knowing what's coming up and until you understand that, you can be as strong as you want but you can be in the wrong position, you can sit on 500 watts and it doesn't matter, you're still up the back."

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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.


Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.