Monday, 12 January 2009

Magnus Backstedt. 
The 'Big' Interview.

Local Journalist John McComisky sent me a recent interview he did with Magnus Backstedt - thanks John!

Article by John McComisky with thanks to Martin McCrossan and Magnus Backstedt


I recently caught up with Welsh based super Swede Magnus Backstedt to find out about life in the pro peleton, his hopes, ambitions and views on the future of the sport, as well as asking a few lighter questions to the “Big Man” of the pro scene. The hard riding powerhouse of the pro scene is admired by many for his gutsy riding and ability to inject serious speed into his Garmin-Chipotle team as well as being a master of the Roubaix and Classics in previous seasons.

What's the the Slipstream sports team like?
MAG: Right from the first training camp in Boulder last year its just been incredible. The whole group just bonded together. I had more fun in the first 24 hours there than I think I’ve had in the last four years. Its like a classic band of brothers, I realised this even more when I came off in Qatar and broke my collarbone, I got a message from everyone and I mean everyone on the team, from all my team mates to Jonathan Vaughters and the owner Doug Ellis.

What is your favourite race? 

There is only one race for me! I live for the second Sunday in April, the cobblestones of Roubaix and absolutely chucking it down proper legendary Paris Roubaix conditions.

Who, in your opinion, is the best rider you have ever ridden against, not only during a race but the way they were away from the peleton?

MAG: There are a few guys I have admired through the years. One is Miguel Indurain. He was a true champion in my eyes. He just let his legs talk! I think he is on the top of my list.

How did you get into cycling?
MAG: I was a downhill ski racer from the day i was able to walk, later on when i was about 12 one of my friends started cycling and I went along and had a go. I didn’t know how to warm up so I went for a run like I would do to warm up for a ski race, my bike had mudguards etc, but within three months I won the national TT title for my age. Gradually after some crashes on the slopes I made the National squad for cycling and I switched properly.

How did you get to be a professional? 

MAG: I just gradually worked my way up; I was a member of the national 100km team time trial team. I went away on national duty etc. I got offered my first pro contract with Collstrop at 19 after holding off the bunch in South Africa with Telekom and Once chasing on the front and not managing to catch me. The manager of Collstrop came up to me after that and offered me a contract. My mum and dad drove me down from Sweden helped me into my digs with my belongings and said “Good Luck” and set off home again! So I came through the Belgian hard mans school

What personal qualities does a rider need to succeed professionally?

MAG: Mental strength, focus, and lots and lots of hard work and dedication and sacrifice

What is the motivation that drives you on? 

MAG: I have an ability to take in what has just happened and about 30 minutes later have turned it into a positive thing. When I got left out of the Tour team in 2007 I was gutted, that was the day before the national championships, I went out the next day and got second in the national TT championships and then won the road race on the Sunday. In the same way with injuries you just have to find a way to fight back from what has happened. I have a good support network as well which helps! 

What are your plans for 2009? 
MAG: I’m still pretty young and motivated for the races I excel in. Roubaix is a realistic target again in 2009. I am having an old school winter, nothing but road preparation. I’m backing in the gym getting some bulk back on my frame that I’ve lost through injury etc over the years, maybe I can scare people enough into submission!

How has the peloton changed in the last decade? And what else can be done to make the sport wholly transparent and fair? 
MAG: Exactly that, they are catching the cheats now. I made a decision long ago that I would do things the way I wanted to, clean. I have won some good races over the years, maybe I could have won more, but we have to start looking forward. Programmes such as the one the Garmin-Chipotle Team have in place will make for a better future. We (Martin and I) have now taken on a Swedish Elite team that we hope to help step up to professional level in 2009. I will act as a mentor to the young guys on the team and this is a perfect opportunity to pass my values on to these young riders and help making sure that the future holds clean hard working athletes. Martin will help develop and manage them up to the highest level of the sport.
The speeds are definitely dropping in the races and guys have bad days now that they weren’t having before. For me Christian Vandevelde Tour de France is one of the most positive rides of the year. Keep the faith the good guys will win in this story!

Thanks for all the answers Magnus and all of us here in Scotland will be wishing you well for 2009, as well as buying some of your coffee! ( It's great that you are helping younger riders with the funding it provides. 
MAG: Thanks, all the money from the coffee will now go to our pro team. We are about to re-launch it. The team will have 7 Swedish and 3 British riders and in 2010 Americans. It is our way of taking riders who are outside of the system or main parts of Europe and giving them that all important first step on the pro ladder.

If your house was burning itself to the ground, what material possession would you run back in and retrieve? 

MAG: I’m not a materialistic person, as long as my family was safe that would be all I wanted, my cobble stone survived 300 years in the ground so I’m sure it would survive!

Away from the race track describe your perfect day? 

MAG: Probably spending time with my family or a day on a race track in a really fast car, or out on the open road in a Bentley Continental GT that I’m trying to persuade my wife that I deserve.

If you could meet one person living or dead for a dinner: who would it be and why? 

MAG: Valentino Ross- Heroes – Gilbert Duclos Lassalle, I had the poster of him winning Roubaix on my bedroom wall.

Is your glass half empty or half full?
MAG: Always half full

If you were not an International cyclist, what do you think you would be doing? 

MAG: I’d be a rally driver or downhill skier

Can you tell us your most embarrassing moment, and to juxtapose this, what is your proudest most triumphant moment?
MAG: Winning Roubaix in 2004 has to be my most triumphant moment in cycling, but also the ride I did in the 2004 Olympics in Athens where I was off the front for most of the day, embarrassing moment, probably when i sprinted for the line in a kermesse in Belgium only to realise when i had won that there was a lap left. To my defense the lap board was not there.

What is on in your ipod, mp3, CD player or on your stereo at the moment? 

MAG: about 8000 tunes. Everything there is in terms of music.

And finally, describe yourself in four words!
Mr all or nothing

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