“He had this really long beard, and he smelled very bad,” said Vaughters, who was in his last season as a rider. “I remember thinking, O.K., this guy is completely different than the image of the typical European money-driven cyclist who buys Porsches in his spare time.”
Those who have heard the tale of Svein Tuft have wondered, could it possibly be true?
How he dropped out of school in the 10th grade, lured by the freedom of the outdoors. How he evolved into a barrel-chested woodsman with Paul Bunyan biceps. How he ventured, at 18, from his home in Canada into the wilderness on a $40 thrift-shop bike hooked to a homemade trailer.
They have learned of the way he traveled sparingly, towing only his camping gear, a sack of potatoes and his 80-pound dog, Bear.The way he drank from streams and ate beside an open fire. Or hopped trains across Canada, resting as the land flickered by.
Now 31, Tuft is out to prove that all the raw travel and personal drive can translate into something beyond his survival. Recruited by one of the world’s top cycling teams, he is about to begin a more disciplined journey. It starts next weekend with the Tour of California, where he will race with the Garmin-Slipstream squad, and is likely to continue this summer at the Tour de France.