Swedish riders get on track

With no track facilities and very little history in this side of the sport, getting a track programme started in Sweden means riders living or traveling to other countries to get track time. But both Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas) and Freddy Johansson (Plowman Craven) have raced for Sweden at World Cup level.

With Backstedt now looking to qualify for the Olympics on the boards, the interest among Sweden's elite riders is growing - enough so that Johan Landstrom and Mattias Westling (Cykelcity) and Mikael and Christoffer Stevensson (Amore Vita) joined him for a track training camp at the Newport Velodrome in South Wales last week.

The riders spent three intense days of up to five hours at a time on the track. By the end of it they looked like they had been riding the track for years. Each rider put down test rides over 200m, 500m, 1km and 4km, as well as various lab tests with high performance coach Steve Benton to ascertain the best route for them to take in terms of events.

Backstedt will fly solo at the first two World Cup events in Sydney and Beijing in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics in 2008. "I'm excited to see now where we can take this programme; these guys took on an amazing amount of information very quickly and how comfortable they looked after only three days – showed their class. My own personal goal this winter is to get back on the track and secure a spot for the pursuit in Beijing."

"In terms of the programme we need results in order to secure the level of funding needed or external sponsors," said Team manager Martin McCrossan who was considering logistics for the Swedish track hopefuls. "Now we have a great group of talented riders to start from which is a great position to be in. Track cycling would be a perfect sport for Sweden and hopefully we can generate enough interest to build a velodrome and bring a new nation into this side of the sport."

Johansson, who has recovered well from a knee operation, will return to world competition in January. Others may get introduced to world-class track racing by the Copenhagen round in February. By the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Sweden is aiming to have a squad of riders capable of challenging for medals.

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