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Slipstream on target

Tyler Farrar was happily chatting away

Tyler Farrar was happily chatting away (Image credit: Bjorn Haake)

By Bjorn Haake in De Panne

2004 Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus Backstedt appears to have overcome years of setbacks due to injury in illness, regaining his form just in time for his favourite event on the cobbles of Northern France. The Swede took second in the final time trial in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, and was delighted with the result. "It's a week and a half until Paris-Roubaix, and the condition can only get better," he told Cyclingnews,

Backstedt felt that the time trial signaled that his form has arrived, saying that the event "was a very good test". The tall, big-legged rider leapt from 17th overall after stage 3a into eighth overall with the effort. Backstedt was just 15 seconds behind the stage and race winner Joost Posthuma (Rabobank) in the time trial, and on par with other Classics specialists Stijn Devolder and George Hincapie in the 13.7 kilometre test.

Farrar tuned up for Roubaix

Backstedt's young team-mate Tyler Farrar felt right at home racing in the Driedaagse De Panne. The American's home in Europe is in nearby Gent, Belgium, and while he is fond of the area, he agreed with those who thought the race was a bit on the dangerous side. "It's a very nervous race. Everyone wants to test themselves for Flanders and here on the coast there is always a lot of things on the road: islands, roundabouts, cars."

Riders make a habit of jumping onto the bike paths that parallel the race route to advance, and often meet the obstacles head on or cause a crash dodging them, and the result can throw a wrench in a rider's plans. Farrar is no stranger to that feeling, having missed Paris-Roubaix the past two years due to crashes, but this week (fingers crossed) he has been lucky enough to avoid hitting the tarmac.

The 23-year-old was one of only three Slipstream riders who were able to finish the race, with Stephen Cozza exiting with a broken collarbone. Farrar explained, "It's the reality of this race, and that's why some teams kind of avoid it." But this was a tactic Slipstream was not eager to adapt. After all, for the race is good preparation for the Tour of Flanders both mentally and physically. "It is perfect, you know," explained Farrar. "It gets the body going. Now we have two days to just kind of relax and take it easy."

Farrar thinks the team is ready to pull off a good result in the "the big one" on Sunday. "We are knocking on the door and eventually the wins are gonna start coming," he said. "We had second places, third places. It's gotta be close that we finally start winning some bike races." Slipstream had done well in some of the early spring classics, like Het Volk, where Michael Friedman got 12th .

Farrar described his finish Thursday (18th place, 46 seconds down) as "an OK ride." But with Backstedt in second, he was happy and felt it showed that Slipstream is justifying its invitation to the Tour. Who knows, maybe a week from Sunday they will start carrying around a large cobble stone, the traditional winner's trophy presented in Roubaix.

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