He seems to have been part of the continental professional scene forever; but all good things must come to an end and Garmin & Sweden (or is it Wales?) strong man Magnus Backstedt has decided it’s time to come out of the 11 sprocket for good.
Magnus’s retiral from top line racing was recently announced by his manager, friend and business partner, Martin McCrossan.
We caught up with the big man at his home in Wales to discuss the past and the future with his new Cyclesport.se-MagnusMaximusCoffee.com team.
‘Magnus retires’ — we never thought we’d see the day?
“Physical issues have played a big part in my decision; crashes, injuries and sickness. It’s become apparent to me that my body is trying to tell me something; I fight back and get in to high intensity training, but then I just get sick or injured again.
“I’ve fought back from hospital bed to riding classics several times, but I can’t keep doing it. My body has been telling me, but this time I’m going to listen! I’m in constant pain with my shoulders; last year I broke my collar bone, chased form for the classics, started to go well in the Giro but then got sick and it was the Tour of Britain before I started to feel good again.
“I was ramping my training into Xmas, but then I had sore knee and I became sick again; I had tests done but there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me. I just decided that ‘this is it,’ and with the new team launch the timing is good.”
I believe you’ll still be racing with the new team, though?
“Yeah, you can’t just stop; if I simply hung my bike up, the chances are that I wouldn’t be around in a year or two. My heart has grown so big and strong that I have to taper off; any sportsman has to take a year or two to de-train.”
You had spells at Collstrop, Palmans, Gan, Credit Agricole, Fakta, Alessia, Liquigas and Slipstream/Garmin — which did you enjoy most?
“It would be a close call between Fakta and Slipstream; but Slipstream probably has the edge. It just felt right — the team mates and the management.
“At the Giro last year, it was the first of me feeling like my old self for a long time and with Jonathan Vaughter’s management, the atmosphere was just the way it should be.”
You’re going to remain as a consultant with Garmin.
“Yes, but we’re still working on the exact details of my role.”
This is the start of season number 14; what are the biggest changes in the sport in that time?
“The whole sport has evolved so much that it’s difficult to put your finger one just one thing. Technology has developed the sport; the use of power meters is one big thing, but it’s more a whole lot of little things.
“Personally, I’ve tried to learn a little more each year and tried to grow my knowledge as my career has progressed.”
What will be the main thing you try to impart upon Cycleport.se riders?
“That we’re looking forward to a bright new future and we’ll be doing it properly; looking after ourselves with no temptation to resort to chemical assistance.”
Who impressed you most as riders, during your career?
“I have two big idols; Miguel Indurain and Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle. Indurain was just so classy; he always stood out in the Tour. I had posters of Duclos on my wall, riding the Paris-Roubaix; for me he was just ‘the man’ on the cobble stones.
“From a more recent time, Franco Ballerini reminded me of Duclos over the cobbles, with his position and attacking style.”
And in management?
“One person I’ve always looked up to is Kim Andersen (currently a DS at Saxo Bank), he manages to be ‘one of the boys’ a lot of the time, but there’s never any doubt that he’s the man in charge.
“You can have a laugh with him, but he’s the man. I also think that Jonathan Vaughters is slowly moving himself up towards being a great manager and I think that history will prove me right with that prediction.”
You’re famed for your Tour stage and Paris-Roubaix wins; but you also won a couple of real ‘cult’ races — GP Isbergues and Fayt-le-Franc.
“Yeah, and there were even tougher back when I won them because they were conducted under the old UCI rankings system where guys were desperate for points.
“I have to say though that one of my nicest wins was being part of the winning TTT team in the Giro last year — that was spectacular. It was a win where everyone in the team, from the bus driver to the riders was involved and got it absolutely right.”
What will you miss most about racing at Pro Tour level?
“I’ll miss the feeling that you’re riding the biggest race on the planet, that day.”Especially Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders; to me and a lot of guys, those races are bigger than the Worlds.”
How did you select your riders for the new team?
“Most of the riders were with the team last year and have moved up with the team as it has gone continental.
“Other riders, like Dan Patten, we’ve got to hear about, checked them out signed. Dan has a lot of potential, he has a big engine and I was impressed by him at the training camp in France.”
Will we see the team go Pro Continental?
“No, definitely not, we’re not trying to create the next super team; we’re interested in the future of cycling. I’ve always done my bit for the sport, presenting prizes at local races and the like; this is an extension of that. We want to make it the best development team there is — there are enough big teams around.
“It’ll be judged successful when I get the big team bosses ringing me and asking about the riders we have for them.”
“I can’t say I wish I’d done anything different because I always gave it my all.
“I would have liked to have won over the cobbles at Roubaix more than once, but like I say, I always did my job to the best of my abilities, so no regrets, no.”
What are you looking forward to most about this chapter of your life?
“Being around kids who are so eager to learn; getting more involved in the business side of things and doing more commentating — it’s all very exciting!”
With thanks to Magnus for his time and patience; not just with this interview but with all the ones he’s given me in the past, too. If folks ask me about Magnus, I always just tell the truth; “one sound, big guy.”