World Championships: Zoe Backstedt wins junior women's road race title

Zoe Backstedt (Great Britain) won the junior women’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in a two-woman sprint against Kaia Schmid (USA).

The two riders broke clear on the third of five laps in Leuven, then worked well together all the way to the finale to sprint for victory, with Backstedt edging it by a bike length.

Linda Reidmann (Germany) led home the chasing group to win the bronze medal ahead of Elise Uijen (Netherlands) and Makayla MacPherson (USA). 

“I have no words at all,” said a tearful Backstedt at the finish. “I can’t believe I’ve just done that, that was probably the hardest race I have ever done."

Backstedt countered a move of her teammate, Flora Perkins, on the Sint-Antoniusberg during the third lap, where she went clear with Schmid. 

Perkins and her other teammate Millie Couzens then did a great job of disrupting the chase behind, while Backstedt and Schmid worked harmoniously together to extend their advantage. 

“I was just trying to keep us moving, keep us away from the group behind. I knew I had teammates in the group. My three other teammates, I knew they would be able to help try and get the gap out a little more, and once it was above thirty seconds I knew that I could hold it with the American [Schmid].

“We kept communicating, saying ‘keep pushing, let's get ourselves to the line and sprint it out and see what happens on the last lap’.’ And we did that, it came down to a sprint and I just had it.”

Aside from a few tentative digs, neither rider chose to mount an all-out attack on any of the climbs, both instead trusting their sprint. 

Backstedt found herself in the less desirable position of leading out the sprint in the final kilometre, but remained calm, and slowed the pace while keeping a watchful eye on Schmid.

Schmid was the first to open her sprint, and briefly held the lead, but Backstedt had the power to pass her before the line and take victory — much to the joy of her father and former Paris-Roubaix winner Magnus, who was commentating live on Eurosport.

How it unfolded

The women’s junior road race consisted of five laps of the circuit in Leuven. 

Like in Friday's men’s junior and under-23 road races, there were more early crashes on the twisty, narrow circuit, with a couple of riders coming down in the neutralised zone.

Another crash occurred within the first kilometre of the race proper, with Violetta Kazakova (Kazakhstan) and Alena Moiseeva (Russia) both hitting the deck. 

The Dutch and British teams were the early pace-setters, and they did considerable damage to the peloton during the first lap, dropping several riders out of the back on the climbs. The lead group was reduced to about 20 riders after the first climb of the Sint-Antoniusberg, but many more managed to rejoin by the first crossing of the finish line to mark the end of the first lap.

Those teams continued to control the race in the second lap, with the Danes also showing themselves at the front. 

Flora Perkins (Great Britain) was the first rider to make an attack, accelerating the second time up the Wijnpers, and going clear from the rest of the peloton along with thirteen other riders: British teammates Zoe Backstedt and Millie Couzens, plus Makayla MacPherson, Olivia Cummins, Kaia Schmid (all USA), Laura Sander, Elizabeth Ebras (both Estonia), Selma Lantzsch, Linda Riedmann (both Germany), Elise Uijen, Anna van der Meiden (both Netherlands), Noelle Ruetschi (Switzerland) and Marith Vanhove (Belgium). 

By the end of the second lap, they had a gap of ten seconds over a chasing group led by the Russians and the Italians, who had missed the move. They made the catch during the third lap, meaning the lead group more than doubled to over thirty riders. 

Backstedt then became the second British rider to make an attack, this time on the third ascent of Wijnpers, and briefly went clear with five riders before a regrouping. Perkins attacked again just prior to Sint-Antoniusberg, then Backstedt countered with Schmid once that move was closed down on the climb to form a new leading duo.

Backstedt and Schmid had a lead of eight seconds by the beginning of the fourth and penultimate lap, and, despite the best efforts of teams such as the Germans, Russians and Dutch, the pair continued to extend that lead until it was over 30 seconds. Backstedt’s teammates Perkins and Couzens did a good job disrupting the chase, keeping themselves towards the front of the group and making it difficult for their rival teams to take turns.

With the gap now over 40 seconds, Backstedt attempted to drop Schmid with an attack 22.5km from the finish, but failed to do so. 

The chase was held up by a crash at the bottom of the Wijnpers, while Riedmann went solo in an attempt to bring back the leading duo. Her effort reduced the chasing group to seven, and their deficit to just over 20 seconds. 

Crucially, Backstedt’s teammates Perkins and Couzens and Schmid’s teammate MacPherson were both among those seven, making it difficult for the other four riders to organise a committed chase. 

The group did get more coherent though when eight more riders joined them on Sint-Antoniusberg, and were still in contention at the bell with a deficit of 40 seconds. However, there remained a lack of willingness to commit, and the lead quickly ballooned up to over a minute a few kilometres into the last lap.

By now it was clear that they were racing for bronze, which Riedmann won in a sprint, while the top prizes of gold and silver went to Backstedt and Schmid respectively.

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Zoe Backstedt (Great Britain) 1:55:33
2Kaia Schmid (United States Of America)
3Linda Riedmann (Germany) 0:00:57
4Elise Uijen (Netherlands)
5Makayla Macpherson (United States Of America)
6Millie Couzens (Great Britain)
7Marith Vanhove (Belgium)
8Eglantine Rayer (France)
9Eleonora Ciabocco (Italy)
10Mijntje Geurts (Netherlands)
11Valeria Valgonen (Russian Cycling Federation) 0:01:02
12Flora Perkins (Great Britain) 0:01:03
13Anna van der Meiden (Netherlands) 0:01:05
14Francesca Barale (Italy)
15Carola van de Wetering (Netherlands) 0:01:15
16Madelaine Leech (Great Britain)
17Elisabeth Ebras (Estonia) 0:01:16
18Anniina Ahtosalo (Finland)
19Laura Lizette Sander (Estonia)
20Elina Tasane (Estonia)
21Alena Ivanchenko (Russian Cycling Federation)
22Wilma Aintila (Finland)
23Maurene Tregouet (France) 0:04:30
24Olivia Cummins (United States Of America)
25Solbjoerk Anderson (Denmark)
26Flavie Boulais (France)
27Jade Linthoudt (Belgium)
28Lana Eberle (Germany)
29Noemie Daumas (France)
30Michela de Grandis (Italy)
31Noelle Ruetschi (Switzerland)
32Lucia Ruiz Perez (Spain)
33Selma Lantzsch (Germany) 0:05:28
34Tereza Kurnicka (Slovakia) 0:06:04
35Julie Hendrickx (Belgium)
36Carlotta Cipressi (Italy)
37Malwina Mul (Poland)
38Sofia Gomes (Portugal)
39Karen Gonzalez Ramirez (Colombia)
40Jette Simon (Germany)
41Lea Huber (Switzerland)
42Nienke Vinke (Netherlands)
43Fiona Zimmermann (Switzerland)
44Bota Batyrbekova (Kazakhstan)
45Laia Puigdefabregas Ariz (Spain)
46Tamara Szalinska (Poland)
47Laura Rojas Capera (Colombia)
48Karina Gaifullina (Russian Cycling Federation)
49Ana Vivar Torres (Ecuador)
50Gabriela Lopez Irreno (Colombia)
51Karin Soderqvist (Sweden)
52Eliska Kvasnickova (Czech Republic)
53Victoria Lund (Denmark) 0:06:28
54Sofiya Karimova (Uzbekistan)
55Johanna Martini (Austria)
56Camilla Raanes Bye (Norway)
57Pija Galof (Slovenia)
58Kirke Reier (Estonia)
59Beatriz Roxo (Portugal)
60Evelina Ermane Marcenko (Latvia)
61Isla Walker (Canada)
62Daniela Schmidsberger (Austria)
63Aukse Strainyte (Lithuania)
64Sonica Klopper (South Africa)
65Serena Jeanette Torres (El Salvador)
66Sara Moreno Benitez (Colombia)
67Anna Kuskova (Uzbekistan)
68Laura Auerbach-Lind (Denmark)
69Ilona Feytou (France) 0:06:37
70Joline Winterberg (Switzerland) 0:06:39
71Nusa Moroz (Slovenia) 0:06:43
72Gabriela Bartova (Czech Republic) 0:10:09
73Alina Moiseeva (Russian Cycling Federation)
74Violetta Kazakova (Kazakhstan)
75Olena Rebrakova (Ukraine) 0:10:11
76Antonia Niedermaier (Germany)
77Nicole Cordova Guerra (Mexico)
78Nika Bobnar (Slovenia) 0:11:49
79Chloe Patrick (United States Of America)
80Daniela Lozano Martinez (Mexico) 0:11:51
81Aoife o Brien (Ireland)
82Fien Masure (Belgium)
83Eleni Koukouma (Cyprus)
84Chloe Bateson (South Africa)
85Naroa Fernandez Rodriguez (Spain)
86Ivana Tonkova (Bulgaria) 0:11:55
87Valentina Basilico (Italy) 0:11:56
88Miriama Cisecka (Slovakia) 0:11:58
89Alla Marushchuk (Ukraine) 0:12:41
90Oda Laforce (Norway) 0:13:40
91Felicia Bengtsson (Sweden)
92Yelizaveta Grinberg (Kazakhstan) 0:16:10
93Anna Kolyzhuk (Ukraine)
94Kotryna Straksyte (Lithuania)
DNFNicole Bradbury (Canada)
DNFOlga Wankiewicz (Poland)
DNFMarie Schreiber (Luxembourg)
DNFLilly Ujfalusi (Canada)
DNFCaitlin Thompson (South Africa)
DNFYelena Mandrakova (Kazakhstan)
DNFDylan Baker (Canada)
DNFMariela del Carmen Flores Quintanilla (Mexico)
DNFErin Grace Creighton (Ireland)
DNFKitija Siltumena (Latvia)
DNFMargarita Misyurina (Uzbekistan)
DNFIda Mechlenborg Krum (Denmark)
DNFChante Olivier (South Africa)
DNFAlondra Granados Bonilla (Costa Rica)
DNFJulia Wudniak (Poland)
DNFNahia Imaz Perez (Spain)
DNFJulia Kopecky (Czech Republic)
DNFLaura Belohvoscika (Latvia)

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