By Andrew Hood
Magnus Bäckstedt was hoping for more in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix when he finished 47th at 9:39 back, but simply finishing the punishing “Hell of the North” tasted almost like victory for the big Swede.
Bäckstedt has been cursed with bad luck and injuries since his breakthrough 2004 Roubaix victory. He missed last year’s Roubaix after crashing early in the season and then blew out his shoulder in a nasty, high-speed track racing accident in October. And then doctors found a melanoma on Bäckstedt’s chest that required two surgeries.
“Stuff keeps getting thrown at me,” Bäckstedt told VeloNews. “It’s bad enough with the shoulder busted up, now they found a melanoma. It can be a bit scary.”
Bäckstedt was just happy be back on his bike in competition. His shoulder was destroyed in the track accident, with his clavicle becoming completely detached and driving through the trapezius muscle.
In February, doctors removed a three-inch metal plate with six screws from his shoulder, giving him just enough time to ride into shape to start Paris-Roubaix. His only races before Roubaix were the Vuelta a Castilla y León and Settimana Lombarda.
More worrisome was the skin cancer doctors found while he was being treated for his shoulder injury. Bäckstedt was scheduled for another checkup this week, but so far it seems the melanoma was detected early enough and there’s no sign that it had spread.
“In the end, I am happy for that fracture,” Bäckstedt said. “They’ve taken everything away and they couldn’t find any traces of cancer. I am going back to the doctor and we are going to keep it under surveillance.”
Just when Bäckstedt was hoping the worst is behind him, his 29-year-old sister received some bad news just two days before Paris-Roubaix.
“Then on Friday, I found out my sister has breast cancer,” Bäckstedt added. “She’s tougher than me. She’ll beat it back. I want to dedicate this to her.”
Change does Klöden good
It seems changing teams has been nothing but positive for Andreas Klöden, who left T-Mobile after eight seasons to join Astana. The German all-rounder is coming off overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, a victory that fuels Klöden’s growing confidence.
“I’m on a good way for the Tour,” Klöden said in an interview with the German wire service DPA. “I don’t think things would be going as well if I hadn’t changed teams. This is a top operation with good material, good organization. I’m really happy here. Everything is looser here. Even the interviews at T-Mobile were tightly controlled.”
Klöden will race in the Ardennes classics and then take a short break before the final preparations ahead of the Tour de France. Klöden said there won’t be any friction between himself and team leader Alexandre Vinokourov during the month of July.
“The Tour is the peak for both of us and having two leaders can work well for the team,” Klöden said. “There won’t be any problems between Vinokourov and myself. As for me, I am in my best form since 2000.”
Beltrán eyes Tour comeback
Spanish veteran Manuel Beltrán is expecting a return to the Tour de France this summer. Last year, the 35-year-old was left out of Discovery Channel’s Tour effort, but the popular Spanish rider looks likely to earn a Tour berth for Liquigas.
Beltrán took his first win since 1999 after climbing to the top podium spot at the Vuelta al País Vasco last week in stage two.
“I’m shining for the success I’ve obtained, because I am not accustomed to climb atop the podium very many times in my 13 years as a professional,” Beltrán told todociclismo.com.
Beltrán will take a short break and then return to competition for the Tour de Romandie next month ahead of planned starts at the Tour and the Vuelta a España.
“Those are the most important dates on my calendar and I am thankful to Liquigas for giving me the opportunity to continue as a professional,” he said.