Paris-Roubaix champion Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi) has declared himself happy with his fitness as his early season objectives loom large - the most significant being the defence of his Roubaix title won last year.
After spending nearly three weeks off the bike suffering from flu and a stomach virus, the 30 year-old Swede has bounced back quickly after getting through Tirreno-Adriatico and riding a decent Milan-San Remo.
Backstedt has spent the last week training in Belgium, which included training on the new sections of the 2005 'Hell of the North' parcours. "Even though the new sections are quite early in the race, I feel they could be decisive," he said.
"The new cobbled climb could also hurt a few legs. The organisers have done a good job in replacing Arenberg [Forest], but I still prefer that historic section. The new sections of cobbles come in quick succession with no room to breathe and recover in between.
"I love the stones; since the first time I rode Roubaix, I knew I wanted to win it at some point in my career," said Backstedt. "I have and now I want it again! Getting close to them in training this week I got goose bumps! For me, the anticipation is like Christmas morning!"
Liquigas-Bianchi will send a strong team to back the Swede as he attempts to defend his title. After riding the Three Days of De Panne, which concluded today, the Italian-registered team will ride the Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and then Paris-Roubaix.
"With just over a week to go I feel I am 100 percent focused on the goal of defending my Roubaix title."