By Magnus Bäckstedt, Liquigas-Bianchi
Merry Christmas everyone.
It’s that time of year when a guy can look back on the past season, take a short break and then start thinking about the next year.
Last year was an amazing time for me, highlighted by that win at Paris-Roubaix and the birth of our second daughter, Zoe.
Zoe was born on September 24, just before I came to Las Vegas this year – my first trip to the U.S. We also have three-year-old Alynor, so this is a big Christmas for us. We’ll be hanging out at home here in Wales for the holiday, although we did just get back from a visit with my parents and my sister in Sweden.
One great bit of news is that little Zoe is now to the point of sleeping through the night, sometimes up to 12 hours. You parents out there will surely understand how welcome that development is.
Anyway, aside from coming to the U.S. for the first time, I’ve been doing quite a number of track races and traveling quite a bit these past months. For one thing, I am back into my winter habit of doing a fair bit of track these past couple of years. We have the new Newportvelodrome just about a 30-minute drive from our place here in Wales. So on those days that the weather is really bad, I can still go to the track. I find it’s been helping me out quite a bit. The environment is more controlled and, in some ways, you can get more out of your workout that way.
I’ve also been doing that new Revolution series at the track in Manchester and then after New Year’s I am heading to Rotterdam for the Rotterdam Six day (January 6-11). I’ll be riding with Gerd Dörich there. This will be my first six-day. It should be interesting. The timing is quite good on this one. I can go do that, get a couple of days of easy riding in after that and then head down to training camp.
Right now, things are spot on in terms of timing and such. After camp, we’ll start racing soon after that and it’s all going to start over again. As you might guess, I am targeting Paris-Roubaix again. I’m also hoping to add to my stage win at the ’98 Tour. Even just one more is a big goal for me. One thing I won’t do though is what I did last year and try to do both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. Doing two – especially the Giro and the Tour – takes a lot out of you. Fortunately, being on a team the size of Liquigas-Bianchi gives me the ability to choose. We have plenty of riders who want to do the Tour and we have a number of big-name guys who can ride a major tour and we have enough guys so that they can end up doing one tour each.
I want to do well in the Classics and then the Tour. They asked me whether I would like to do the Giro or the Tour and I said straightaway that I wanted to do the Tour next year. I like the looks of this Tour. I mean it starts off with a 19km time trial, so it should suit me much better than last year. Who knows? If I do well right out of the gate, maybe I can try to get the yellow jersey for a day or two. That has to be tops on my list of goals for the year. I had to go to Italy and meet up with the new team and sort out all of the details for next year, so with all of that in order, I just need to concentrate on getting ready for the season. Like I said, I did spend a bit of time in Sweden, but unfortunately I can’t really spend too much time up there, as it doesn’t give me any chance to do anything on the bike. The days are short and the weather is quite harsh this time of year.
That’s not to say that I am any sort of ‘fair weather’ cyclist and I don’t usually make a habit of heading to warmer climes for training at this time of year. I stay home here in Wales and try to get quite a few hours on the road. Even on my track days I try to put in a few hours of road time ahead of spending time at the velodrome.
I do two days a week on the track, working on leg speed and such, and then try to put in good long miles the other days. Since the weather here is rough, too, I figure it does me good since I want to concentrate on the Spring Classics. I mean if I spend a winter riding on the roads of Wales, I’ll feel right at home racing in Flanders in the spring, eh?
As many of you might recall, one of the big problems I had last year – especially during the two big tours – revolved around my back. After a lot of pain and worry, we finally diagnosed it as a problem resulting from weakened stabilizing muscles in my back and abdomen. They were knocked about in a couple of crashes last year, I think my body tried to make adjustments and some of those muscles atrophied.
Anyway, I’ve worked with therapists, followed a specific set of exercises and I feel great. I haven’t had any pain at all for the past two months. In the beginning it was tough. I could hardly do those exercises, but now it’s fine and I have no trouble putting in a six-hour training ride.
So, from the looks of things, it should be a great year. Let’s hope it all comes together. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!