Magnus Backstedt prepares for Slipstream season

Would you mess with this guy in a sprint?

Would you mess with this guy in a sprint? (Image credit: Mark Zalewski)

By Mark Zalewski

Big Magnus Backstedt is one of the veteran guns directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters hired to bring his Slipstream-Chipotle team to the next level in 2008. The Swedish champion recently attended the team's first camp in Boulder, Colorado.

The 2004 Paris-Roubaix champion, Magnus Backstedt, was all smiles last week at the Slipstream team launch in Boulder. A laughing and joking Backstedt might seem to be incongruent to his riding style and big stature, but it perfectly illustrated the mood surrounding the team building experience.

The 32 year-old echoed what his new team-mates were saying all week about the camp: "This is extremely well organized, beyond anything we have encountered before," he said. "It took me a few days to get over the jet lag, but it has been great to catch up with the old guys and meet the new ones. They are just a great bunch of guys!"

As one of the veteran riders on the team, and the likely leader in any of the Spring Classics, Backstedt knows that he has a responsibility to be a teacher. As well, even though the team has technically been around for years, this incarnation is virtually a new team in the European peloton – something that brings a new set of challenges.

"When you come with a new and smaller team you have to prove yourself, especially in the sprints," said Backstedt who will be the team's choice for fast finishes. "It is a little bit harder to do in the first races. When the others know that you have some horsepower behind you then it's easier to get in line – they make room for you. Whereas when you come in with a smaller team, you have to make the room yourself, and it gets a little hairier."

Of course, my response to this was likely yours too. "Right Magnus, I doubt someone your size has trouble 'making room.'"

"No, even for me! Until they see what we can do, because when you are out there riding you just see the kit and not who it is. I think we have enough horsepower behind our lead-out train to eliminate getting into any stressful situations this year."

Another factor relating to this idea of proving oneself is the team's performance in the first races of the season, a burden that will be placed on the shoulders of Backstedt and the other veterans when looking at their scheduled races. "I plan to do Qatar to start off and then come over here [USA - ed.] for a week of camp before Tour of California. Then the pre-Classics like Paris-Nice. The Classics are still my number one goal of the season. That is what I live for."

When asked how this need for early season success might affect his personal goals, such as Paris-Roubaix, Backstedt said he will be prepared. "As long as I know exactly what I am doing, in terms of racing and training, I can always adjust for the plusses and minuses that come with the schedule. If we do a few less cobbles in the semi-classics, I'll stick a cobble camp in there and go for a few days smashing over the stones."

To read the complete feature, click here.

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