Racing multiple disciplines is very much in vogue these days and its future could be safe in the hands of Zoe Backstedt (Great Britain), who won a medal in her first World Championships on Tuesday but mostly just wants to have fun on her bike
"Fun" was the word she used repeatedly when effectively introducing herself to the world's media in Bruges after placing second in the junior women's time trial at the UCI Road World Championships. Amid the pomp and the circumstance of this global event, it's perhaps easy to lost sight of the fact that, for a 16-year-old, fun is probably all cycling should be.
Perhaps that's why, despite the initial crestfallen reaction when she watched Alena Ivanchenko (Russia) knock her off the top spot, the sense of disappointment had largely worn off by the end of the podium ceremony.
"I came here for the win, but this is my first Worlds and, being 16, I've got to be very happy with the silver medal," she said.
Backstedt is the youngest daughter of Magnus, a former Tour de France stage winner and winner of the 2004 Paris-Roubaix, and Megan Hughes, a former British road race champion. She's not just following in her parents' footsteps but also the rather more recent ones of her sister Elynor, three years her elder.
Elynor, now a WorldTour pro with Trek-Segafredo, rode the junior women's time trial at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, claiming the bronze medal on both occasions. Zoe may have gone one better with silver but she deferred to her big sister when asked about bragging rights in the Backstedt household.
"She's got two bronze, so she still one-ups me on that," she joked, adding that the sibling shadow was much more of a help than a hindrance.
"Speaking to her over the past week has calmed my nerves," she said. "Having a friendly voice that I know has really helped. She has all the experience so I can ask her about anything - things like how to go down the start ramp."
Likewise, her father, who was commentating on television, had a helping hand. "I was really nervous today, and he was saying 'focus on your own race, do the best that you can do, and what happens happens'."
Like Elynor, Zoe started out with the Storey Racing team set up by Britain's most decorated Paralympian, Sarah Storey. However, despite following her sister onto the road and track, Zoe has also branched out into cyclo-cross, joining the Tormans team linked to the Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert road outfit. She has taken the past two junior women's national 'cross titles and laid down a big marker with a first World Cup win in Tabor late last year.
She has also won junior national titles on the track and the U17 Gent-Wevelgem on the road, and has no plans to narrow her horizons any time soon.
"It's really great that I can do all three. I enjoy doing them all so you may as well do them while you're young," she said.
"I'd have to say my favourite is cyclo-cross. There's just something about racing in a cold field in the winter. It's the best thing ever. A lot of the skills go across to the road and the track as well."
It's little wonder, then, that when asked if she has a cycling idol - family members excluded of course - she names Marianne Vos, winner of 12 elite world titles across road, 'cross, and track.
"She can do everything - everything that I'd like to do as well in the next few years," Backstedt said.
"I would like to be world champion. Next year I have a good chance in the time trial, so hopefully, I can go for that. And yeah, just to have fun when doing it, enjoy the races, and just have fun on the bike."
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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