After being sensationally left out of the Liquigas team for the Tour de
France, Magnus Backstedt signaled his return from the various injuries that have
plagued the 2004 Paris Roubaix champion over the last few years, with a victory
in the Swedish national road championship last Sunday.
Backstedt started his nationals campaign with second place in the time trial
behind Gustav Larsson of Unibet.com. His ride sent out warning shots that he was
on form and serious about leaving with a championship jersey in his suitcase.
Backstedt commented, "Being left out of the tour was a huge disappointment.
You'd think that the sponsors would welcome the publicity that they would gain
from me starting the tour in the country I live in and who have also adopted me
as one of their own. I have focused on the prologue for most of the season and I
knew I was coming to form at the right time."
Sundays 200km road race around the University town of Uppsala, was a very
typical city based circuit with only two short climbs on the mainly flat, twisty
circuit. Throw in the torrential rain showers that had been bashing most of
Northern Europe last week and you had the recipe for a nervous day for the top
As the field shot away from the start there were riders being catapulted out of
the back in the opening miles. The pace was full on and many small breakaways
were gaining only a few seconds before being reeled back in.
Eventually a breakaway of thirteen riders formed including Backstedt's young
team mate from the Kopperberg Cycling Club (riders race as their clubs in the
Swedish championships) Freddy Johansson. With Johansson in the lead group
Backstedt could sit back confident that if it went to the finish , Johansson
would be in with a chance of a victory.
The leading group included some talented riders such as Victor Renang
(Cykelcity), Victor Folkesson (Unibet.com), and Johan Landstrom (Cykelcity), who
would turn out to be one of the riders of the day. As the lead hit a maximum of
almost four minutes, the lead group split in two as Landstrom took off with
Fredrik Eriksson (Uppsala CC). As the remnants of the group were caught,
Backstedt launched his chase.
Magnus' solo attack. Photo © Megan Backstedt
"I was surprised they let me go to be honest" Backstedt said afterwards "I
think it was one of those momentary lapses by the bunch and once I was away I
just put the hammer down and went for it"
As the rain continued to fall, the big Liquigas rider was dishing out a lesson
in how to corner in the wet in his chase to the front. Landstrom was now on his
own and the main pack were looking far from serious about the chase.
Eating up the road between himself and Landstrom it was on one of the fast
sections that he caught the Cykelcity rider. As Backstedt got close he blew past
Landstrom with such force that it took him the best part of five hundred meters
to get back onto the wheel.
Having been out in front for a long time Landstrom looked tired. He was losing
big gaps on his more experienced companion through most of the corners. After
taking a couple of turns he decided to sit on and try and survive to the finish.
Backstedt spoke of the break, "We did have a couple of chats about him sitting
on all the way to the finish. At this level it is always a risk to tow someone
all the way to the line even if they do say they're cooked!"
Behind, was time trial champion Gustav Larsson who was putting in a late bid to
join the two leaders. With the gap at one minute and five seconds, he closed to
within 45 seconds inside two laps to go. As they swung into the town for the
bell, Landstrom punctured leaving the Liquigas rider alone.
A very quick wheel changed had Landstrom back and chasing within thirty seconds,
but after being in the lead for most of the day it was doubtful he could power
back up to the big man.
The smiles on the large crowd around the circuit showed the popularity of
Backstedt in his home country. As he entered the finishing straight the roar of
the fans was tremendous, this was what they had come to see, a display of power
by a rider who is undoubtedly one of the best riders Sweden has ever produced.
Victory! Photo © Megan Backstedt
The victory salute said it all and now he had the national champions jersey, a
signal that the Terminator was back! Following the race, Backstedt said, "In my
team only the Italian title counts, we are encouraged not to win ours, but I
couldn't stop myself. I was time trial champion back in the days when you
weren't allowed to wear the jersey in stage races, so I never got to wear
it! Now I can wear it every day!" He said with a big smile.
"For me having my wife and daughters here was a big motivator, the girls were
screaming at me every time I went past and I don't think there is a dad in the
World who doesn't get an extra kick out of GO ON DADDY when they're
So what is next for the new national champion? "Obviously I have very little
racing in July so I'll continue to train, do some TV and radio work which I
enjoy. I will probably ride some of the domestic Premier Calendar races in the
UK. I am also going to get on the track and do some testing." He concluded.