220 exclusive: Magnus Backstedt interview

Magnus Backstedt, former pro cyclist and 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner is taking up tri, with his first race schedule to be Abu Dhabi in two weeks...

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Magnus Backstedt, former pro cyclist and 2004 Paris-Roubaix winner, recently announced that he'll be racing triathlons starting this season. Backstedt also won stage 19 of the 1998 Tour de France in a career that included stints with Alessio-Bianchi, Liquigas and Slipstream-Chipotle, as well as more recently with Team UK Youth – including riding last year's Tour of Britain. 

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Backstedt's first tri challenge will be at the Abu Dhabi triathlon on Saturday March 2, and 220 caught up with him to see how's he's feeling about a new challenge.

220: What made you decide to try triathlon? 

Magnus Backstedt: The idea has been in the back of my mind for years. I've always said I was going to do an Ironman before I started to slow down. With the backing from Maxifuel and some other sponsors it became reality mid December. I'm really thankful to all my sponsors who has made this possible.

Does that mean we won’t see you riding on the road again this season? 

I'll still be riding the road for the first part of the season whilst training for the Ironman. I think it's vital for me to keep my racing legs on to be able to get down to some good Ironman times. Round about mid to late June I'll focus almost all my time and energy on triathlon.

What part of the move to triathlon do you think will be – or have you found to be – toughest? 

I think the swimming is the one that's going to require the most work as it’s so much about technique, although I've been moving very quickly forward in that area since I started getting in the water. I’m still some way off where I want to be. The running is more a question of getting my legs used to the impact again. I did run a lot when I was younger.

How are you finding the training? Have you done much running or swimming before? 

I'm absolutely loving the training. It’s nice to throw a few different things in the mix rather than just doing the big miles on the bike. Swimming I haven’t really done competitively before, but running times has been fast when I was younger. I used to run the 10k in about 34min back then. It’s a bit different now though as I’m looking for a lot longer distance.

How do you think triathlon compares with cycling, which is another brutally tough sport? Is there a similar mental strength needed for both? 

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I've always been a sucker for pain, so this is right down my street. I think the mental strength required to hurt yourself is very similar to cycling. I can’t wait to find out what it’s really like.