Tuft Enough

Rid­ing Grand Tours

Pedal Magazine - - Out In Front - BY SVEIN TUFT

We caught up with leg­endary Svein Tuft for a quick in­ter­view on the do’s and don’ts of rid­ing at a Grand Tour, one of the tough­est chal­lenges for any pro cy­clist dur­ing their ca­reer.

How do you start your day dur­ing a Grand Tour like the Giro?

Gen­er­ally, I like to get some time in na­ture and see the sun asap. If there’s an ocean nearby, then I make the ef­fort to get there. This is my op­ti­mal re­set for a stage race. It’s taken some years to re­al­ize the ben­e­fits of this ap­proach, but I’ll tell you, when you feel it, it’s very ad­dic­tive.

Tell us how you man­age to stay fu­eled dur­ing a Grand Tour.

At a cer­tain point in a Grand Tour you’re just try­ing to get en­ergy in. It can be tricky be­cause most of the time the first op­tions are the sug­ary sim­ple carbs. I try to bal­ance that. Good fats through co­conut oil, av­o­cado and eggs are the best op­tions and teams are pro­vid­ing th­ese things more as rid­ers are de­mand­ing them.

How do you fuel for five-hour en­durance train­ing ride ver­sus a five-hour stage at a Grand Tour?

There can be a big dif­fer­ence be­tween the two. A five-hour stage in the moun­tains of a Grand Tour around stage 18 can get tricky. Your body is at its limit and you are just try­ing to ab­sorb as much food as it will al­low, whereas dur­ing train­ing you can re­ally con­trol the nutri­tion. Some­times while out tour­ing I might not eat for the first four hours. Ob­vi­ously the in­ten­sity is to­tally dif­fer­ent, but I will say a big part of the car­bo­hy­drate de­mand for cy­clists in rac­ing has a lot to do with the brain de­mand­ing sim­ple fuel. Rac­ing is so dif­fer­ent from what you can try to repli­cate in train­ing. A big part of that en­ergy de­mand is caused by the stress of be­ing in a bunch and mak­ing a mil­lion tiny de­ci­sions in split sec­onds.

There is still a lot of talk about rid­ers us­ing painkillers, an­ti­in­flam­ma­to­ries, etc. Is this hap­pen­ing?

Th­ese things are crutches for a lot of rid­ers who feel they need to add things when they think their body is not ca­pa­ble. I think the rea­son th­ese things are still around is be­cause of the placebo ef­fect. Un­til we can break that men­tal­ity, I don’t see it stop­ping. In my opin­ion, a 22 year old who feels it’s nec­es­sary to take painkillers and anti- in­flam­ma­to­ries to get through the day should re­ally re­assess how they’re go­ing to be feel­ing at 40!

What are your thoughts on gad­gets and de­vices that ath­letes can use for re­cov­ery?

Ha! I’m con­stantly try­ing to get gad­gets and elec­tron­ics out of my life. To the point where screens and the blue light emit­ted from them I find ex­tremely an­noy­ing. I think hu­mans are pretty amaz­ing and in­vent some in­cred­i­ble de­vices. But what I’ve come to learn over th­ese years is that we will never trump Mother Na­ture. The Earth, cold creeks, sun­light, mag­netism, oxy­gen-rich forests, salt min­er­aldense oceans, plants and an­i­mals, to name a few. I’ve been down a lot of re­cov­ery rab­bit holes, but noth­ing comes close to the sim­plic­ity na­ture of­fers.

You’re on Twit­ter but have no web­site, Face­book, or In­sta­gram ac­counts. Are you a bit anti-so­cial?

Ha! As I’ve stated, I’m try­ing to get as far away from those things as pos­si­ble! I think th­ese types of so­cial me­dia have de­vel­oped quicker than our prim­i­tive brains can adapt. When I look around to­day out in the world, peo­ple are ob­sessed and some­what zom­bie-like as they scroll through their feeds of use­less in­for­ma­tion. I also think the hard drives in our brains are only ca­pa­ble of re­tain­ing so much in­for­ma­tion. Th­ese at­ten­tion-grab­bing plat­forms just seem to rob you of liv­ing a healthy, pro­duc­tive life and, un­for­tu­nately for many, send­ing them into the dark holes of de­pres­sion.

Is pro cy­cling putting the health of the rid­ers first or is the fo­cus al­ways on per­for­mance?

I think this is get­ting much bet­ter as teams re­ally start to look at the big picture. In­stead of turn­ing rid­ers out ev­ery one or two years if they don’t per­form, teams are work­ing on a more pos­i­tive holis­tic ap­proach to help rid­ers achieve what the team orig­i­nally saw in them. In such a per­for­mance- and re­sults-based en­vi­ron­ment, I don’t think it’s a su­per-easy de­ci­sion for cash-strapped teams, but it’s the only way. I’ve al­ways viewed cy­cling as one part of my life and not sac­ri­ficed my long-term health just to be a good cy­clist. So I looked out­side of the box and be­gan to al­ter my en­vi­ron­ment to off­set the stress. Bal­ance is the key. When I’m home, it’s all about ground­ing back to my re­al­ity and when I’m leav­ing it’s about men­tally pre­par­ing and ac­cept­ing what I’m get­ting my­self into.

If you were man­ag­ing a Grand Tour team, de­scribe your ideal day from pre-race to bed­time to op­ti­mize per­for­mance and health?

Ideal days are when you can get on the bike feel­ing like you haven’t just raced 10 days in a row and can sleep with ease in the evening. I still get th­ese days at the age of 40 and I chalk it up to this. The morn­ings where I can get in the sea, feel full sun­light on my body, bare­foot, and feel­ing the earth be­low me. I’ll go through a move­ment rou­tine and work the kinks out of the body. I’ll do some dif­fer­ent breath­ing tech­niques to take the stress out of the di­aphragm. Then off to brekky where our A-1 chef Nicky has the nutri­tion as­pect cov­ered per­fectly. Af­ter the stage when you I get to the ho­tel, I’ll take a walk and find my morn­ing place for the fol­low­ing day. Walk a bit bare­foot. Re­count the day. What went right and wrong. Back for mas­sage. Good dins again with Nicky. Fol­lowed by another walk, hope­fully to see the sun­set. I’m a big be­liever in get­ting that re­do­r­ange light in your eye be­fore bed­time. Oh! One last thing. Noth­ing beats a good dip in an ice-cold creek in the moun­tains. This trumps all ice baths!!!

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