What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Interviews: Magnus ‘Maximus’ Backstedt

Cycling has never had a great number of blond Viking giants with disarming Swedish/Welsh/Liverpool accents, so Magnus Backstedt would stand out even if he wasn’t one of the nicer guys in the pro peloton. PEZ checked in with Magnus to find out how another UK winter has treated him…

PEZ: Hi Magnus. As we’re in Britain, how about the weather, eh?

Magnus: Yeah, it’s pretty miserable today …. rainy and about 3 degrees (thankfully he means Celsius, American readers!), but as you’re also in the UK, I guess you’re used to that, too!

PEZ: What have you been up to?

Magnus: I’ve just been out picking up my new car … that’s why you couldn’t get me earlier. You know how these things go, they always drag on too long …

PEZ: We’ve been hearing good rumours about your condition through the winter …

Magnus: Yeah, I’ve looked after myself well this year and I’m feeling good in my legs. And I’m pretty much the same weight I was when I finished off the season. I’m lighter than ever before at this stage of the year but I’m producing the same power so things are good.

Magnus’ winter has been anything but chill – he’s been on the track, in the wind tunnel, and everywhere in between.

I had a late end to the season last year … I rode the Vuelta (in September) then there was the attempt at the Derny record. It took a lot of hard work after I had my couple of weeks off the bike to look after myself, then once I’m back on the bike, it’s always easier to keep the weight off.

PEZ: Being at home in Wales must have helped you through the usual grind of getting back into things …

Magnus: It helps me a lot ……. my wife (Meg, herself a very talented rider) has always been very supportive of what I do, like if I need to change my diet or go on a special diet she’s always been there to help me.

And I’m with my two little girls here, too – Elynor is 4 and Zoe is 16 months old. To them I’m just Daddy, and it doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a good race or a bad race, or whether I’m going well, I’m just their Dad. It’s nice to be able to spend the time with them. We’re out travelling so much, you know, it gives you an extra bit of tranquility …

Backstedt got in a solid day of riding at Flanders last year – he helped drive the day-long break, only about 200k out in front!

PEZ: You’ve got a lot of big races this Spring …

Magnus: Yeah, but it’s pretty much the same set-up as last year. In 2005, I did the Tour of Qatar to start off with then the Tour of the Med but I’ve cut those out partly because I’m so much lighter I don’t need to race myself stupid to lose weight!

Hopefully, that’ll mean I don’t have to race as much and it’ll keep me fresher for when we get into the Classics.

PEZ: How will Liquigas shape up to support you at the Classics this Spring?

Magnus: They’ve reinforced the Classics team quite a bit this year … Stefano Zanini, Manuel Quinziato, Luca Paolini … that’s just three of the bigger names we’ve signed up this year to be competitive. So the team is looking a lot stronger. I feel like we’ve got a good, strong team to be able to do some damage in those races.

PEZ: The other big Liquigas name for the Classics is Danilo Di Luca; he’s more focussed on the Ardennes, so how well do you know him?

Magnus: To be honest, I don’t do that much racing with him, just a couple of races towards the beginning of the year and the end of the year, and he’s a really nice guy. Very positive, open and easy to get along with … I really like him as a guy. (Long discussion followed about just what a nice guy Di Luca seems to be. Magnus thinks very highly of him, describing last year’s Pro Tour winner as “.. a real champion.”)

PEZ: If everything works out, you’ll be up against another friend of yours in Roubaix and Flanders again this year, Mr Roger Hammond of Discovery Channel.

Magnus: Yeah ….. we spent a lot of time together, shared a house in Belgium and we built quite a strong friendship out there, and I was really happy for him when he finally signed for a big team.

He was racing really strong last year, but he had a bit of a mishap before the Classics … … that Paris-Roubaix (2004) was kind of a weird set-up for us because I knew how much that race meant to him and how much it meant to me to win. Mixed feelings because I was so happy that I won it but I felt for Roger because chances like that … you don’t get that many in a career. That’s racing, you know ….

The win that needs no introduction.

PEZ: Flanders and Roubaix will always be the big targets, no?

Magnus: Yeah, the second Sunday in April is the number one target, and probably will be for the rest of my career as well. I’m really looking forward to it. Hopefully I can get into it again and be a man to contend with.

To be honest with you, Paris-Roubaix was one of the first races I ever saw on television and I always had big posters of Duclos-Lassalles on my wall back home.

It was one of the races I wanted to ride, then I finally got to turn pro and it was such buzz coming into that race! Actually, getting to ride it and then finishing seventh on my first go just added to it, and I thought: “I’m gonna win this race one day before I pack up”. Once you’ve won it once, you always want more, don’t you?

Backstedt was very good at Roubaix in 2005, but only JUST missed out on holding on to the leading group in the waning stages.

PEZ: You know you’ve won it before so the confidence must always be there that you can do it again…

Magnus: 2004 was a big year for me and I still can’t describe the feelings I had for that but it also gave me a lot of extra pressure for 2005. I wanted to show everyone that it wasn’t a one-off, like a meteor that hit Earth!

This year, I still wanna show that if I’m healthy and I get to prepare properly for it, that I can be up there in the finale.

PEZ: Would you swap a Tour de France stage win for another Paris-Roubaix?

Magnus: Definitely … definitely. Roubaix is number one for me. But, you know, I’m starting to look at getting another stage win in the Tour. 1998 was my last one, and that’s a bit too big of a gap! Once I get the Classics done and have a rest, I’ll start preparing to get to the Tour in a better condition than the last couple of years.

The PEZ Speed Round:

Next big star?: Thomas Lovkvist …. He’s the most pure talent that I’ve seen come through in many years. I’m certain he’ll make it as a big Tour rider. He’s only 22, just a pup still!

Joker in the pack: Dario Andriotto! He definitely keeps the mood up on the bus, a very funny guy. Charly (Wegelius) is a very good guy to have a laugh with, too.

Food: I’m a big fan of pizza ….. (Magnus drifts off a bit at this point) … yeah, my choice anyday, definitely a nice pizza.

Films: I’m a big fan of the old DVDs, wouldn’t survive without them. ‘Be Cool’ with John Travolta’, ‘Happy Gilmour’, that sort of thing.

Books: Sports biographies. I’m reading through (motorcycling phenomenon) Valentino Rossi’s autobiography just now

Music: Depends on the occasion. Coming into races its Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Marilyn Manson …. that sort of stuff. But I have a friend who’s a DJ who does some mixes for me. Leftfield, too, I listen to a lot.

As for Magnus’s favorite Drink, well, here’s where you should all mark in your diaries to tune in to PEZ for Part II, and your chance to win an exclusive sample of what helps fuel a Paris-Roubaix winner! Competition coming very soon! Keep it PEZ, people!

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