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Zoe Backstedt parlays junior road success into elite Cyclo-cross World Cup

Zoe Backstedt (Team GB) competes during the 25th Zonhoven UCI CycloCross World Cup 2021
Zoe Backstedt (Team GB) competes during the 25th Zonhoven UCI CycloCross World Cup 2021 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Modern cycling has tended to reward cyclists who focus on more than one discipline; Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) has been a world champion on the road, track and in cyclo-cross, Giorgia Bronzini won road and track world championships, while Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), the current cyclo-cross world champion, has also achieved a long and successful career on the road. 

Seventeen-year-old Zoe Backstedt is following their example, mopping up a series of impressive results in all three mediums of cycling.

In September she became junior road race world champion, and won a silver medal in the individual time trial, while she is currently racing on the cyclo-cross circuit during the road off-season.  

Following a recent rule change, junior women cyclo-cross riders can enter elite races in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup, if there is not a separate junior race offered. Since only five of the World Cup’s 16 rounds are accompanied by a junior race, this allows ample opportunity for promising young riders like Backstedt to measure their progress against the elite competition.

Under these new regulations, Backstedt has finished 20th in her first elite women's World Cup race at Zonhoven, the highest result so far recorded by a junior this series, and she finished in 26th place at the World Cup in Overijse on Sunday. 

She also placed tenth in the Superprestige Ruddervoorde, part of the Superprestige series, a season long competition consisting of eight rounds in Belgium and the Netherlands.

In the junior cyclo-cross category, meanwhile, Backstedt won the Telent Superprestige Gieten in October and, last year, she won the only women’s junior World Cup race not cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Already, this success is beginning to translate into results in the cyclo-cross elite races, if not the World Cup yet, as she won both the CX Täby Park and Stockholm Cyclo-cross races three weeks ago.

As well as competing in cyclo-cross road races, Backstedt has also found success on the track. At the 2021 European Junior Track Championships, she won three gold medals in the Madison, Team Pursuit and Individual Pursuit. 

Each of these disciplines reinforces the other. The endurance required for events such as the Individual Pursuit allowed Backstedt to rise from a 32nd place at the end of the first lap in Overijse to a 26th place at the finish, while the frequent sprints required to win a cyclo-cross race naturally translate onto the road. Whether Backstedt can utilise this crossover to tame the track, road and cyclo-cross circuit at elite level remains to be seen, or is perhaps only a matter of time. 

Issy Ronald has just graduated from the London School of Economics where she studied for an undergraduate and masters degree in History and International Relations. Since doing an internship at Procycling magazine, she has written reports for races like the Tour of Britain, Bretagne Classic and World Championships, as well as news items, recaps of the general classification at the Grand Tours and some features for Cyclingnews. Away from cycling, she enjoys reading, attempting to bake, going to the theatre and watching a probably unhealthy amount of live sport.