'Big Mag' is one of the most aggressive riders in the pro 'peloton' of bike racers.
Magnus Backstedt is a Swedish professional cyclist based in South Wales. In 2004 he won one of the sport's toughest one-day 'Classic' races, the Paris-Roubaix, but a crash at the start of the 2006 cycling season prevented him from taking part in the race he loves that year.
Raise Your Game caught up with him at home, to see how he was recuperating, and to check on his preparations for the 2006 Tour de France.
Raise Your Game: You really dislike not being on the bike...
Magnus Backstedt: Yeah, it's not really me. My life, since I was 12-years-old, has revolved around some sort of sport, mainly cycling, so when I'm unable to ride my bike I just don't know what to do with myself. This is what I do, cycling is not a sport it's a lifestyle.
All of a sudden, if I can't go cycling, I have to do something else for five hours - I can't do anything for five hours! It just means sitting at home trying to work out something to do. It's just not me, it doesn't feel right.
- 2nd Stage 7 - Tour de France
- 1st Paris Roubaix
- 2nd Ghent Wevelgem
- 2nd CSC Classic
- 1st Swedish National Time Trial Championship
- 1st Intergiro competition -Giro D'Italia (Tour of Italy)
- 2nd Swedish National Road Race Championships
- 1st Swedish National Championships
- 2nd Swedish Championships
- 5th Four Days of Dunkirk
- 1st Stage 19 - Tour de France
- 1st Stage 4B - PostGiro Individual Time Trial
- 1st Sprint's Competition Four Days of Dunkirk
- 7th Paris Roubaix
RYG: So that level of commitment is part of you?
MB: It is part of me, it's who I am. When you get injured, your whole identity is taken away from you, you're no longer yourself. It's quite an awkward situation to be in mentally. Physically, it's quite good to have a bit of a rest, but mentally it's hell.
RYG: Do you have mental strategies to get through those dark days?
MB: I just try and find other things to do. I'm just starting to help young riders come through, finding them new contracts, and I've been doing some commentating for Swedish television. I try and keep as many balls up in the air as possible so that there's always something happening. It gives me something else to do for quite a big part of the day, so that's definitely helped.
RYG: Moving back to why you're in that position, you had a crash on the first day of the 2006 season...
MB: 60 kilometres into the first race of the season - you can't ask for anything worse really. I was better prepared than I've been in my whole life before, and all the tests I'd done before going out to the first race showed I was flying. And I never got to experience what that was like. I finished the first day in pain, the next day I couldn't ride properly and it's been bad ever since.
So I had a week and a half off, did a day of riding, one or two days off my bike, all the time the Classics season was getting closer and closer which is my big goal of the season, and what my team is paying me to do. So I got to the point where I had to go out and race a couple of stage races to get myself into shape, to give me a chance of being competitive and up there with the best.
I went out to Italy to do a stage race - willpower was all that took me through that race. I was in tears some days when I got to the finish line because my tendon was hurting so bad. And then got to the first big race of the season, Milan San-Remo, and I got 110 miles into that and my knee basically stopped working on me. I came back home to try and sort out what was the problem.
The first diagnosis was between five to eight weeks off my bike, and that obviously wasn't a good thing to hear!
RYG: How do you get through something like that, the Classics are your big goals aren't they?
MB: I live for them, that's my part of the year. I'd give anything to be 100% fit and be able to race for those two weeks. That one week, Sunday-to-Sunday, we've got the Tour of Flanders, Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix. I'd much rather take the rest of the year out and be 100% competitive on those three races, than do anything else. I live for that.
RYG: What are your goals for the rest of the season, do you think you might ride differently because you're coming into the season late?
MB: Out of everything bad that's happened, there's always something good coming out the other side. Now coming towards the Tour de France I'm fresh, perhaps under-raced, so I'll probably have quite a difficult time in the first couple of days. My body is 100% fit, there's no more knee problems or anything like that. My big goal for the season is the Tour of Spain now, where I know I've had time to build myself back up to where I was at the start of the year again, but I'll go to the Tour (de France) to try and win a stage.
RYG: Are any stages taking your fancy in the Tour?
MB: I'm not one of those guys that sits and studies all the stages to see what's gonna be my sort of thing. I sort of play in the moment. Everything is split-second decisions, and I try and make the best out of every possible situation.
I know I do the same thing for the Classics, focus myself 100% on the second Sunday in April, which is the Paris-Roubaix, and if that blows up in my face that's quite a big hit to take. I just go into every stage and try and get the most out of it.
RYG: What are your goals for the Tour of Spain, overall classification or stages?
MB: For me its all stages, I'm not good enough a climber, I've got too much weight to drag around. For me it's always the sprinter's stages, long breakaways, semi-hilly stages that I can do, looking at points jerseys and things like that. The main goal is to come away with at least one stage from the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain.
RYG: You not only sit in the pack, you go to the front and it seems like you want to make everyone feel the pain. That's got to take some strength and commitment?
MB: I love attacking and racing aggressively, and obviously it's a big bonus when you're making an attack and you look around and you see the guys making faces because they're in pain, that just gives you that extra little percent to make them hurt even more.
RYG: So you're quite sadistic!
MB: Oh yeah definitely! For me the best part about the racing is to let all your aggression - whatever you've got inside you - out on the bike and just attack everything at all possible times. That's why I like the sprints so much, because it's very explosive, very aggressive, and quite physical sometimes as well. On top of that you've got the speed, so it's a big adrenaline rush coming into the sprints all the time. I love that bit!
RYG: You must just love causing mayhem?!
MB: Yeah why not! I like mixing it up in the middle of it and sometimes you take a knock or two, you come off your bike and hurt yourself a bit, but that's part of sports and that's part of life as well. You've got to be able to take a hit and learn from it and get back up on your bike again, or get back doing whatever you do, and try even harder next time. It's all about learning from your mistakes and using it the next time so you don't put yourself in the same situation.
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