Former Tour de France stage winner and 2004 Paris-Roubaix champion Magnus Bäckstedt will be competing in his first ever triathlon next month when he takes his place at the starting line-up at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Swedish cyclist Bäckstedt won stage 19 of the 1998 Tour de France, before eight years later achieving arguably the highlight of his cycling career when he won the Paris-Roubaix race.
Now ready to challenge himself on two more fronts other than his trusted bike, Bäckstedt admits he has been keen to get involved in triathlon for a while, and has taken the decision to get the first one under his belt before it’s too late.
“I have always had this idea in the back of my mind that I was going to do a few triathlon competitions before I retired completely from top level sport. I now feel that this is the right time to make the move,” the 38-year-old said.
“After some testing and a few calculations, my coach and I thought it would be possible to get to a point where I would be competitive, at least in my age group. After that, who knows where I’ll end up.”
Retired in 2009, Bäckstedt struggled with a number of health issues during his top-flight cycling career, including a serious knee injury, melanoma, a separated shoulder and broken collarbone.
Not one to let set-backs stand in his way, in 2010 he announced he would come out of retirement to lead the UK Youth Cycling Team along with former British Formula One champion Nigel Mansell for UK Youth Charity.
Now the enigmatic Swede is choosing the Abu Dhabi Triathlon for his triathlon debut, as he looks to make his mark against one of the world’s strongest line-ups of elite athletes.
“I only decided to make a serious move into the sport in December 2012 after 16 years as a professional cyclist with eight Tour De France participations to my name. Triathlon has always been something that has fascinated me,” Bäckstedt explained.
“Life for me has always been about trying to find the limit of what my body and mind is capable of and this should really challenge me, plus I wanted to find a sport I can do for some time to come even when I’m not a full time athlete any more.
“The general fitness you gain from training for triathlons is great and I want to stay in shape as I grow older. But for now I really just want to see how far I can push my body in this new sport.”
Bäckstedt admitted he chose the Abu Dhabi event for his first triathlon after receiving glowing recommendations from people on the triathlon circuit.
He added: “This will be my first time in Abu Dhabi and I love going to new places. It’s always really interesting to see different countries and how people are living. I have heard a lot of great things about this race and I’m really looking forward to the whole experience.”
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