By Gregor Brown in Zottegem
Expect to see Slipstream-Chipotle's Michael Friedman working for Magnus Backstedt in the Driedaagse De Panne. The American rider just returned from the Track World Championships in Manchester, England and is anxious to put his road legs to use before focusing on the Olympic Games. The key stage for Backstedt will be the Belgian stage race's second stage, 228 kilometres from Zottegem to Koksijde.
"It's my first race back in Belgium after Track Worlds," said Friedman. "It did not go so hot, not as well as I wanted [in Manchester]."
After a lackluster run in the World Championships, the 25 year-old who was 12th in the Omloop Het Volk is ready to do some work for 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner Swede Backstedt.
"We are rolling into this stage race to see where it goes, preparing for the Tour of Flanders," he explained. "The team is looking out for Maggie, and maybe even Chris Sutton. We have three or four guys who can make the splits, whoever can make the split can be up there in the general classification. We will make the splits and then go from there."
A crash in the Tour of Qatar delayed Backsted's form running into April's big one-day races. "I am getting back into form now," said the Swede. "I started to feel okay after the stages in Critérium International. It is hit and miss now, but the overall my form is improving. Hopefully, we will get there just in time for the big ones."
With the Paris-Roubaix on the horizon, Friedman said he's comfortable with his fitness. The French Spring Classic will be held in a little under two weeks time, on April 13.
Friedman will take a break after his domestique roles in Paris-Roubaix and then redirect his attention towards the Olympic Games. "I am still focused on the track for the Olympics," said Friedman. "I am partnering with Colby Pierce in the Madison.
"However, when you ride the road all year long and then try to make the jump to the track it is hard," he added. "In order to qualify, under our countries procedures, I will have to ride on the track at the end of May."