There was no one even close to rivalling Zoe Backstedt in the women’s junior individual time trial at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, with the rider from Great Britain delivering a staggeringly quick time that exceeded even her expectations.
“I planned to try and get under 20 minutes. That was our goal,” Backstedt told the media after being presented with her rainbow jersey and standing on the podium to the strains of God Save the King.
No other rider in the field went under 20 minutes on the 14.1km course, but Backstedt didn’t just meet that goal – she completely tore it apart.
The 17-year-old, who came second in the event last year, was already over a minute ahead of her nearest rival, German Justyna Czapla, at the first intermediate time check taken at the 7.1km mark and there was no slowing down from there. The daughter of former British road champion Megan Hughes and Magnus Bäckstedt finished with a time of 18:26.78 and took the junior World Championship title with a huge margin of 1:35.58.
"This year I knew that I wanted to win it and came in hoping to win it and I pulled it out of the bag on the day," said Backstedt.
“Basically because it was only 14 kilometres, I planned to just go as hard as possible for the whole thing because there was a couple of descents and then through the corners you can recover as well,” said Backstedt. “Any moment where you could put power down it was going as hard as possible to try and get my best time.”
Last year’s World Championship junior road race winner, who is also the junior cyclo-cross world champion, delivered an average speed of 45.863 km/h, more than 3.6km/h faster than her nearest rival. What’s more it’s a speed that is in line with those that stood on the podium in the elite women’s time trial.
The junior course has some alterations from the women’s elite time trial route, and the distance for the junior women sits at well under half, so it’s far from an exact comparison, but only Dutch winner Ellen van Dijk – with an average of 46.137 km/h – and silver medallist Grace Brown – 45.918 – posted a higher average speed in the time trial than Backstedt.
What’s more for the first time check at 7.1km, where the junior and elite courses align, Backstedt's time of 9:38.06 was more than 17 seconds faster than Van Dijk's time of 9:55.52 at the same point.
“I would have loved it if the elites had done the same lap as we had, and they had just done two laps or something like that, so I could kind of compare times," said Backstedt, who is turning professional with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB next season. "But yeah, I mean, it gives me some good markers for how I'm going and hopefully next year I'll get some good time trials in on the road.
“But I reckon I could have done a decent time in the elites, but we'll never know because obviously conditions are different. They do longer, you have to pace it differently and everything like that. So I can't fully say."
Though, after that performance, clearly her elite rivals will now be watching closely when she does make the step up.
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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and as a correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.