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Magnus Opus: A Giro diary

Well, here we go. This is the first big race I’ve done after Paris-Roubaix, and despite the fact that I’ve done the Giro d’Italia before, this time it’s all new to me. It’s just been a pretty strange time, these last few weeks, leading up to the Giro. Winning something like Paris-Roubaix really does a job on your life (see "Backstedt a big surprise at Paris-Roubaix"). For one thing, people are actually paying attention to me when I’m just doing little things like warming up for the prologue. That never really happened before. Today, media were constantly coming by to ask questions, others

Prologue – Genoa – May 8, 2004

By Magnus Backstedt, Alessio-Bianchi professional cycling team

Well, here we go.

This is the first big race I’ve done after Paris-Roubaix, and despite the fact that I’ve done the Giro d’Italia before, this time it’s all new to me.

It’s just been a pretty strange time, these last few weeks, leading up to the Giro. Winning something like Paris-Roubaix really does a job on your life (see “Backstedt a big surprise at Paris-Roubaix“). For one thing, people are actually paying attention to me when I’m just doing little things like warming up for the prologue. That never really happened before. Today, media were constantly coming by to ask questions, others would be there to take pictures. People would come up to do interviews … this really is new. I’m learning.

It’s been an intense few weeks. There’s been a lot more happening than what one would usually have to deal with going into a big tour. This time around, there is quite a bit more pressure and attention –from everyone, really – from the media, from the team, from the public. I am having a bit of a hard time coping with it at first outing. It’s a bit much to take in, but I’m learning quickly and hopefully I’ll get better at handling it. Now, I’m sure not complaining, that’s for certain. I mean without the media and the public, well, we’d be nothing… we wouldn’t have jobs, now would we?

I’ve enjoyed the sudden brush with celebrity, but I really have to learn the ropes. I mean, I still have to do my job – bike racing – and I have to find a balance. Some of the top guys are quite good at that … it’s going to take me a few days, maybe even a couple of weeks, to learn how to do it. I figure it’s not that hard. I know a lot of these people, and if I respect the fact that they have to do their jobs and I give them my time when I have it, then I believe the reverse is true and they can respect the fact that I, too, have a job to do. I think most of them know that when I do have a moment, I will give them all the time I’ve got.

So I come to the Giro this time with a few more expectations on me. I come here with the objective of winning a stage … over a three-week stage race, my big goal is to get at least one stage win along the way. I hope to get my sprinting legs going and get in a good sprint when it counts, like I did lastyear. In the meantime, I will just take it day-by-day.

Today was – well, it was okay. It looks as though everyone on the team has had a pretty decent ride. Mine was a bit average, from my perspective, I’d guess. I didn’t quite feel like I had the aggression that I needed to take on this particular circuit. I didn’t do too badly – eighth at 32 seconds back – but I’m not happy with it. As far as I am concerned, I could have done better. I really like a course like this – I love the corners and such. It is very technical, but normally, I should have been good at that.

I just went for it from the start and tried my best to build up as much speed as I could on the long drag after the start and before I got to the climb and then tried not to blow before I got to the top – hoping to save a little bit of oomph as I went into the descent with cobblestones and very tight turns – left, right, center. Then right after that, another climb, more cobbles… and then a breather with 200 meters of flat and then the hard part – a stretch of about 300 meters that hits around 10 percent … and then it’s all downhill from there. There was just nowhere to find a proper rhythm and get into it. This was a specialists’ course and its a specialists’ course that suits me… so eighth is just that and I am not all that thrilled by it. Anyway, we have a long three weeks ahead of us.

Looking ahead, my big concerns ahead are, of course,the mountain stages. It’s not the big ones that have me worried. On Tuesday, on stage 3, for example, the climbs aren’t really going to be too bad for me. As long as it’s fairly moderate leading up to the climbs, I’m actually okay. The hard days for me are the up-and-down, three-kilometer climbs that come one after another all day. Those eventually take a toll.I feel those days a lot more than I do on the days with a big climb or two. On the big mountain days, you can stay with the field on the flats and then on the climb find your rhythm and find your group and get over. If there are more flats after that, you can usually chase back on.On the days when its climb-after-climb-after climb, it’s a different story. You have to stay with the peloton and it’s just moving so fast. You can’t always get a group together, as the guys are popping off at widely different locations, and ahead, the peloton is just flying along and you’re hard-pressed to make the time cut. Those days are much more of a concern for me than the big mountain stages. That said, I fully expect to make it all the way to Milan.Check back in. It’s going to be a great three weeks.