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Paul Bunyan on the bike

Canadian Rider Makes an Unorthodox Climb Toward Cycling’s Pinnacle – NYTimes.com

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.

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In this age, when athletes have become personalities, it’s refreshing to read a profile of an athlete who is more concerned with being true to himself than trying to fit into a mold of what a professional athlete should be.

I have to admit, I’ve seen the name Svein Tuft before, on VeloNews.com and CyclingNews.com, but haven’t paid a whole lot of attention, especially the past couple of years when it seems that doping stories overwhelms everything else, and my own drive to ride my bikes has faded … but stories like this are inspirational; and I find myself more interested in getting out on my bikes and following the sport than I have in years.