Former Paris-Roubaix Champion Magnus Backstedt has confirmed his return to competitive cycling this season following a two-year retirement from the sport.
The 36-year-old Swede will compete for elite amateur outfit Team UK Youth, which is scheduled to participate in British Cycling's Premier Calendar of races against a number of British Continental squads. The team is being backed by former Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell, whose sons, Leo and Greg, also form part of the squad's 11-man roster.
Although the Premier Calendar events are a far cry from the roads of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour de France, the former Alessio-Bianchi, Liquigas and Garmin professional told Cyclingnews that his return is being treated with exactly the same focus as his earlier career.
"When I retired two years ago, my body was just shot to bits from 14 years of crashes and illness, and I'd never really had the chance to recover properly from those problems while I was still racing," said Backstedt.
"I've had two years out and I feel like a new man again - there's no pains, no niggles. The commitment and training is still the same and I'm taking it very seriously, but I am slightly more relaxed about it than I used to be."
Backstedt remains the only Swedish winner of Paris-Roubaix, following his victory at the race in 2004. Since his initial retirement at end of the 2008 season, Backstedt has remained involved in cycling through commentary for British Eurosport and management of several amateur teams, most sponsored by his own Magnus Maximus Coffee brand.
His involvement in the Team UK Youth team began when Mansell, the charity's President, asked Backstedt to manage the squad late last year. The two had met while working together on a 1,300-mile charity cycling event organised by Mansell in August, 2010 and while Backstedt accepted the management offer, he also proposed his own return to competition.
"We did the ride in 2010, and I started to get reasonably fit," said Backstedt. "I then went to Boston straight afterwards and did another charity event and got another 300 miles in the legs. When I got back from there I thought, 'I wouldn't mind actually doing a little racing next year, at least something more competitive on the bike'."
With the team formed with expressed goal of raising awareness of Team UK Youth's social programmes in Britain, they have opted to remain as elite amateur and restrict their racing schedule to local events. Backstedt admitted that plans for growth of the team in 2012 and 2013 are underway, with application for a UCI Continental licence this year considered but ultimately deferred.
While the scope of the team and Backstedt's objectives will remain more modest for now, with the team hoping to add Britain's Tour Series criteriums to its 2011 calendar, he hasn't put a time limit on how long he intends to race for. Indeed, should the team develop into a professional squad, Backstedt could yet rejoin the pro peloton.
"When I'll retire again - if I retire again - well, we'll have to wait until that day comes.
"Never say never," he said, when asked about the chances of a return to the cobbles. "But if I'm going to get to that level again, it will have to be with this team."
2011Team UK Youth