Swedish road giant Magnus Backstedt has two simple aims for 2008, his first year with new US squad Slipstream-Chipotle: repeat his 2004 victory in the Paris-Roubaix classic and win a stage of the Tour de France.
"If I can do that then I've had a good year," Backstedt told Cyclingnews.com in an interview looking forward to the 32-year-old's twelfth year in the professional ranks.
Backstedt said that just getting to the Tour would be "a milestone of the whole season" for the team, which is planning to step up from its previous status as a development squad to a fully-fledged European team with the aim of joining the ProTour in 2009.
But his personal aims centre on the Spring Classics. "The Classics are still my number one goal of the season. That is what I live for," he said.
First, though, the team will have a busy early season with the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of California and paris-Nice. Backstedt will be one of the team's elder statesmen, along with David Millar, but he isn't concerned about his role as team leader in the early season affecting his own goals.
"As long as I know exactly what I am doing, in terms of racing and training, I can always adjust for the plusses and minuses that come with the schedule," Backstedt said. "If we do a few less cobbles in the semi-classics, I'll stick a cobble camp in there and go for a few days smashing over the stones."
The pressure to do well seems to be coming from Backstedt himself. Slipstream-Chipotle has a very relaxed attitude to winning, part of its general philosophy of combating doping by taking the intense pressure to win off the riders.
"There is no pressure on anyone to do anything so we can just go out, relax and enjoy riding our bikes fast," said Backstedt. "If we win, great. If not, we'll go home and train more. I think that is a very nice environment to be in – it's simple, and life is just easier. You know you can continue racing without having things come out the back door."
New team, new bike
Helping Backstedt with his aims is the team's new bike sponsor Felt. Backstedt is impressed with the Felt bike he has been riding so far. "It is super light – it is actually lighter than my bike from last year! But it's just the standard version of the frame, so it is a little flexible.
"Jim Felt is bringing out the sprint version of the F-1 this week, so I'll get a go with it and try different things. Then in mid-December we'll sit down and discuss it. But I am already sending him an e-mail twice a week about how I feel on the bike and how it is behaving so that he can start planning ahead and resolve the issues for me.
"[Jim Felt] is a super guy and absolutely loves doing that sort of stuff. Ultimately the more we work together the better bikes he'll be able to build and the better bike I'll have. It's a mutual benefit situation."
Magnus Backstedt started his professional career in 1996 with the Collstrop-Palmans team. His palmares includes the 2004 Paris-Roubaix, a stage of the 1998 Tour de France, two Swedish road race titles and a time trial national championships. He lives in South Wales which allows him to indulge his sideline of track racing and plans to race some of the 2007-8 track world cup series, starting with Sydney, November 30-December 2.