Top Swedish cyclist Magnus Bäckstedt making triathlon debut in Abu Dhabi.
Swedish pro-cyclist Magnus Bäckstedt – who won the Paris–Roubaix in 2004 and a Tour de France 1998 stage – has earmarked next month’s US$230,000 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon for his global triathlon debut.
The road racing legend and eight-time Tour De France competitor hopes his participation in the 2 March event will be an inspiration to others, proving it’s never too late to try something new.
“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. 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,” said the 38-year-old, six-foot-four powerhouse.
“I would like to say that it’s never too late to make a change. If your mind is in it you can always achieve a goal. The important thing is to set realistic targets when you make the change and then build those targets as you get better.”
Retired in 2009, Magnus 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 British F1 supremo Nigel Mansell for UK Youth Charity.
Now the enigmatic Swede is choosing the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) event for his triathlon debut, as he looks to make his mark against one of the world’s strongest line-ups of elites.
“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,” said Magnus, who has just completed his first couple of months of triathlon training.
“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.”
Magnus, who is married to Megan Hughes, the Welsh retired track and road racing cyclist, said picking the Abu Dhabi flagship event for his first triathlon title tilt was a good fit after hearing about it on the global circuit.
“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,” added the father of two.
Magnus is one 10 athletes invited to compete in the fourth Abu Dhabi event as part of organiser TCA Abu Dhabi’s competition to find the most inspirational stories in the sport. The event received over 100 entries from inspirational triathletes globally.
Abu Dhabi is expecting more than 2,000 athletes to compete this year, including many of the world’s top elites.
Dubbed an ‘Instant Classic’ after its 2010 debut, the event has continued to attract the world’s best for a shot at one of the sport’s richest prizes. Highlights from past years have seen World Champions Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack and Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander battle it out in the desert sun, legend Julie Dibens claim back-to-back titles and Rasmus Henning snatch the title in the closing metres from home favourite Faris Al Sultan.
The year, organisers are promising the strongest elite field to date. Leading the charge is TEAM GB’s gold medal winning Olympic triathlete and back-to-back European Triathlon Union champion, Alistair Brownlee, who is looking to expand his competitive horizons.
The 2013 Abu Dhabi International Triathlon will start with a sunrise swim in the Arabian Gulf’s shimmering turquoise waters off Abu Dhabi’s Blue Flagged public beach, before weaving through closed roads along the Corniche Beach, up to the spectacular Yas Island and around the Yas Marina Circuit – home to the annual Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – before returning to the heart of the UAE capital.
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