Posted by Editor on 05/11/09
Svein Tuft had a stellar 2008, finishing seventh at the Olympics in the time trial and then taking the silver medal in that same event at the World Championships. He then stepped up from the Continental Symmetric squad to the ProTour ranks with Garmin-Slipstream.
With Garmin-Slipstream he started the season at the Tour of California, where things were going well until a crash in the final stage, which included hitting his head. Since then, he has raced sporadically while overcoming the effects of his crash, and was pulled last week from the Giro d'Italia squad (however, he is still on the preliminary list for the Tour de France). We spoke with Svein from his European base in Girona, Spain, where he shares an apartment with team mate Christian Meier (and is in the same building as team mate Ryder Hesjedal).
Canadian Cyclist: So how is life in Girona?
Svein Tuft: It's beautiful; 29 degrees [Celcius] today. I was out riding with Christian today, a monstrous climb. I've been loading for the last two weeks. It was a hard load, six hours with 10,000 feet of climbing, just to get back on track.
CC: This crash at the Tour of California seems to have really affected your season. What did it do to you?
ST: It was really weird. I am sure that I have been hit before, but I've never had this kind of reaction. It has been hard to deal with.
I felt like I was in a fog, really out of it. After the Tour of California I came home [to Vancouver] for two days before going to Europe. Since then, I have been spaced out, really slow reactions and balance problems. But it was hard to quantify.
CC: And now?
ST: It's not until now, the last week or so that I'm really snapping out of it. The team doctors checked everything out, but everyone's different, and I've discovered that no one really knows a lot about this sort of stuff. You just have to give it time. It has been tough sometimes; I've wondered if I was making it up.
I was on for all the Classics, but things didn't start to come around until the Three Days [of De Panne]. Then I had my next accident! I hit a concrete flower box and hurt my knee and my back. It didn't seem too bad to start, but then the day after Flanders I couldn't pedal.
I was supposed to do Roubaix, but instead I came home and pretty much shut it down and tried to get back on top of things.
CC: Did that work?
ST: The last week and a half has been awesome. I have a friend visiting who is an acupuncturist, and that has made a big difference as well. It feels like I am really back on top of it finally. I guess I've been really luck, but it's been hard on the head.
CC: So now that you aren't doing the Giro, what's your schedule?
ST: [Volta Ciclista a] Catalunya and then either Dauphine [Libere] or Tour de Suisse.
CC: And what about the Tour [de France]?
ST: Yeah, I think that's what the team wants for me, and it's looking solid, very positive.
CC: Now, you've gone from being on a North American team, on the continental circuit, to what is really the Premier League of cycling. That's a big step. What are you seeing as the most noticeable differences?
ST: Well, when you do a Classics-style race, like De Panne, it's like doing a Flanders every day. There are 200 guys that want to be in the first ten riders for every climb. In North America there are some super strong guys, but here they're all good.
You have to fight for position on these tiny roads in big fields. Back home, if your were feeling strong, you could put yourself at the front for a climb, but here sometimes that just doesn't matter; if you are in the wrong place then you can just watch the race ride away from you.
I guess the biggest difference is just the depth.
CC: What about after the Tour? You got silver at the Worlds last year, so you have to be thinking about the world title?
ST: Yes, I think with the way my schedule is after the Tour - especially with not doing the Giro now - that is definitely a possibility. It would be awesome.
CC: Now, you probably could have easily found a North American team, stayed over here and had a pretty good career, without dealing with all the stuff in Europe, like crappy hotels, huge fields, etc. Gord Fraser told me he came back from Europe because he just didn't want to deal with it. Are you happy with your decision to go to Europe?
ST: For sure. I can definitely agree with Gord's side, because you have to be where you will be happy. But you have to love your life, and for me, I was at a point where I was looking for the challenge of this environment. I will never get this opportunity again. Sure, there are ups and downs, but this is the experience I want.
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