2/6/09 Magnus Backstedt retired today. In his honor we bring back this interview from '07, when we accosted him in the aisles of Interbike.
At Interbike, they had a very nice media center for doing interviews, showing off product and connecting with the outside world. But we wouldn’t know anything about that. Sometimes you can get a quality interview when someone is getting something to eat or going to the bathroom. We stopped Magnus Backstedt on his way to somewhere more lucrative. He was very pleasant and chatty and wasn’t doing the full bladder two step, so we don’t think he was on the way to the john.
For best results read Magnus' part with a Welsh accent by way of Östergötland.
VN: What's the first race you're going to do next year with Slipstream?
MB: We're not 100% sure yet, but we're thinking Tour of Qatar.
VN: Are you going to do a track program this year?
MB: I'm definitely going to try to do the world cup, so we're looking for some sponsors now to fund it because Sweden doesn't actually have a track program. So we're just starting that up now. So far we'll fund the first two world cups at least out of my own pocket, so unless we can find anyone out there that's willing to come up with twenty thousand bucks to help me get out there...
VN: Is that going to be more common next year? I mean, you're a pretty big name to have to pay out of your own pocket. Are a lot of people looking to self fund this year?
MB: I don't think many people are looking to self fund, but for the track program that's what I'm going to do to get to the Olympics. So ultimately, all right, fair enough, I have to find someone who's willing to put their name on my kit, and pay for me to go out. Twenty thousand dollars and you can have all the space on the kit you want. (And with Magnus, there's plenty of space on that kit!)
VN: You're in Scotland, right?
VN: Do you ever cross paths with Graeme Obree?
MB: Um, I've come across him a couple of times, but not racing.
VN: Now, you went for the derny hour record, right? Will you try that again?
MB: Probably not the derny, no, 'cause it kind of put me off a bit last time with having to...it's not actually 100% up to me whether I'll beat the record or not. You know, the driver plays such a big part in that.
VN: What is the record for that?
MB: 66.114 km/hr. So, it's not undoable. I've been thereabouts before, you know, in training, and gone past it as well.
VN: How much time do you have to spend with the derny in preparation for the hour?
MB: Hours and hours. Yeah, just to work out so that you play well together and everything's working good.
VN: How do you pick your derny driver?
MB: I actually had a few boys up at the track and we just ran a testing session and you know, we talk times and we check the wattage output and all that and work out who's the smoothest and that was it.
VN: That almost makes it easier. The driver could just set the speed and pace you. For the athlete's hour they don't allow pacing but with the derny that gets taken away.
MB: Yes, yes. For the future, I'm playing with the idea of doing the athlete's hour record.
VN: Oh really? You're going to the old bike and do it that way?
MB: We're playing with the idea, we're not sure yet. Keep your eyes open, 'cause it might happen, it might not.
VN: You going to do it at altitude?
MB: Rules are, you're not allowed to do it at altitude. It's gotta be sea level, not above 500 meters.
VN: They're going to keep changing the rules 'til Eddy Merckx beats everybody.
MB: Exactly, exactly.
VN: He'll come out of retirement, if you're not Belgian, you're not allowed to win.
MB: Yeah, it's possible. We'll see what happens with that.
VN: Are you guys going for a ProTour license right away?
MB: No, we don't want to go to ProTour straight away, we just want to move up step by step.
VN: But you're going to want an invitation to the Tour?
MB: We're pretty much sorted on that already.
VN: Are you the ticket to Paris Roubaix as a former winner?
MB: That'd have to be a big part of it. I've done the race a few times and I've always been up there, so it's a pretty safe bet if I'm in one piece and I'm healthy then I'm going to be up there.
VN: And if you're healthy you're going to have a good shot at it...
VN: How's your health now?
MB: I'm good, yeah.
VN: Got everything sorted out?
MB: Finally, you know. Been able to string three months of training together without any interruptions and all of sudden results start coming in, so ...
VN: You're a big equipment guy, right?
VN: What do you think of the stuff you're going to be riding? Have you gotten anything from Slipstream?
MB: We've been looking at the bikes, I've been talking a bit with Jim Felt about the bike.
VN: Is he, afraid?
MB: (laughs) Well, I don't know, really. I think we got the equipment part covered.
VN: On most frames you get, what's lacking? What do you need that they have to build into a frame for you?
MB: It's generally the bottom bracket area that's not stiff enough, and also the back end of the top tube. Most companies have got the front end and the headset, they got that part sorted. A lot of the times, when I step on it, it feels like the seat's coming across about a second later.
VN: What kind of wattage are you putting out when you do that?
MB: Full sprint? After a 200k ride about 1900 watts. Fresh, basically going out training and ten minutes into a ride doing a full kick when I'm going well over 2000.
VN: Wow, is that for one reading or is that for a couple seconds?
MB: We're talking probably the best part of two seconds at least.
VN: Wow, no wonder they have to stiffen the bottom bracket. That's a lot of torquing right there.
MB: Yeah, yeah.
VN: Do you stay away from certain lightweight wheels, is there anything you...
MB: Whatever's stiff I'll ride. Most of the time it's whatever your sponsors given you as well, so...
VN: ...but they don't want it to crumple under you either...
MB: No, exactly. There's always a way of working it out, finding a good solution. Most companies are very open to, if you come in with, you know, constructive criticism, um, you can always work something out. And at the end of the day, it's beneficial for them, it's beneficial for me. We both...it's a win win situation.
VN: Any special stuff you ask for before you do Paris Roubaix? Any special builds, extra tape?
MB: We always go with pipe insulation underneath my handlebar tape.
MB: Yeah, that grey stuff.
VN: Wow, you wrap that pretty tight? You probably have that big a grip? (Schmalz mimes a big grip)
MB: Yeah, to like, tennis racket size.
VN: Wow. Have you seen anything here that you like?
MB: Lots of things. (laughs)
MB: Yeah yeah (laughs). I mean, for me, the coolest thing out there so far is the new Zipp Sub 9 disk. You know, anything that can give you, you know, another ten to fifteen watts, that's all good for me.
VN: Slipstream ride Zipps?
MB: I'm not sure 100% yet what we're riding...
VN: There's always stickers...
MB: Right, right.
VN: How'd you hook up with Slipstream?
MB: Through Jonathan Vaughters. We used to ride together at Credit Agricole, and you know, I met Jonathan down at Catalunya around May time, and we started talking. I was kinda keen on getting out of Liquigas, moving on, you know, time for a change I thought, and Jonathan told me about the program that we're doing, and I said, well hang on, make me an offer I definitely want to be a part of this.
VN: You guys have kinda become THE US team, now.
MB: Yeah, even in Europe there's a big big buzz about Slipstream. Where'd they come from? Who's the sponsor?
VN: Yeah, who's the mysterious man in New York?
How influential is the anti-doping program going to be? Is it the standard the other teams are going to have to come up to?
MB: There's a lot of teams that's starting to do things like this. I think it's a good thing that we're doing it. Ultimately I think we are going to have to find one program that everyone goes under. Run the same stuff, so that it's easier to control. But, it's a great initiative and I definitely support it 110%. It's just nice to be able to go to a race and know none of my teammates are going to be coming out with...
VN: It's almost to the point that the teams that don't do it will seem a little suspect.
MB: Yeah yeah.
VN: Hopefully it's going to pressure every team to go into it. There is the expense of it, but...
MB: Hey, at the end of the day, I'd rather spent that 3, 4, 5 hundred thousand dollars to get that program up and running, and have the sponsor chucking you another 5 million in two years time, instead of not spending any money and be without a sponsor.
VN: Yeah, do you lose a sponsor, or...
MB: Exactly, exactly. Ultimately we lose our sport completely.
VN: Well, thanks for your time, we...
One more question. What's your wattage for like, a half an hour? Our readers want to hear that.
MB: (laughs) A half hour? I generally do...a twenty minute ride, I average about 535.