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Zoe Backstedt dominates junior women's time trial at World Championships

Great Britain's Zoe Backstedt captured the junior women's time trial title at the UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia, with a blistering pace on the 14.1km course.

The 17-year-old secured the rainbow stripes with a dazzling ride, delivering a time of 18:26. That was 1:35 minutes faster than runner-up Justyna Czapla (Germany) and Febe Jooris (Belgium), who was another 13 seconds back in third. 

Backstedt, who has signed with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, was the clear favourite, having taken the silver medal in the junior women’s TT in Flanders last year, and then won the  junior women’s road race days later.

She came into the Worlds in top form, having swept all three stages to take the GC title and mountains classification title at the Watersley Ladies Challenge earlier in the month. 

“This was one of my biggest goals of the season, just trying to win this, make it one up from last year. I am so happy," Backstedt said after the finish.

"My coach had told me [from] the car that if I kept going as I was, I would win. And I crossed the line and I was pretty sure I was up, I was trying to look up at the board,” Backstedt said after the finish. “I came in aiming for a sub 20 [minute time], and I ended up with 18:30, so wow.

“It was far from easy, if I’m honest. We rode it [the course] on recon day and I was riding with some of the pros and getting some advice and having fun on it. I came into it knowing the climb was going to be tough. Being the last person off I had already seen some of the times at the half-way point and at the finish. I just kept pushing and pushing.”

The early leaders in the top two positions were Anna van der Meiden of the Netherlands and Elisabeth Ebras of Estonia. Then Eliška Kvasničkova (Czech Republic) took over the hot seat with the final six riders on the course. Jooris would unseat her by less than a second, followed by Czapla taking over by a full 13 seconds, but Backstedt was tearing up the tarmac from behind.

Backstedt was the only rider to go under nine minutes for the first half of the course, and then captured her TT victory with dominance, stretching her midway point lead to a full minute and a half margin.

How it unfolded

The first of 37 riders on Tuesday morning was Hannah Kunz of Germany, taking the 14.1km course under blue, sunny skies, mild temperatures and light winds in Wollongong for the battle of the rainbow bands. 

The course took riders across one full lap of the rolling circuit through the suburban streets of Wollongong, a similar route to that used by the elite men and women two days ago but without one section taken out. Starters set out at two-minute intervals and were able to attack the Mount Ousley climb, the uphill coming at the midway point. Once crested, riders settled into aero positions for the second half of the contest.

New Zealand’s Arabella Tuck was an early starter who struggled to stay clipped in her pedals on the start ramp for a disastrous beginning, using valuable time to hit her stride. Meanwhile, four riders had already posted times at the intermediate sprint, Kunz crossing the crest of Mount Ousley at 10:46. The German rider set the standard at the finish with a time of 20:32 and settled in the hot seat to watch her adversaries.

Nine riders later, Great Britain’s Isabel Sharp edged in front of Kunz by 1.3 seconds to move onto the top spot of the leaderboard.

Meanwhile, Anna van der Meiden of the Netherlands was out of the saddle using a big gear on the climb and set the fastest time at the intermediate check, 15 seconds faster than Kunz. She continued with a smooth performance and smashed the second half of the course to set a new best time of 20:16, 14 seconds faster than Sharp.

Flying across the intermediate point with the second-best time, 12 seconds off the pace, Elisabeth Ebras of Estonia hit the finish line less than one second behind the time of Van der Meiden. The two remained comfortable with a dozen or so riders completing the course.

Nienke Vinke (Netherlands) was next to put in a dazzling performance. She was only 5.4 seconds slower than her countrywoman at the intermediate check. By the time she powered her way across the finish to record the third-best time, just 1.4 seconds back.

One of three riders on home roads, Isabelle Carnes (Australia) set a time of 20:21, giving Ninke a bit of a scare, but not able to unseat the Dutch rider from a bronze position.

Shortly thereafter, Eliška Kvasničkova (Czech Republic) got out of the saddle and sprinted across the line for a new best time, a fraction of a second better than Van der Meiden to take over the hot seat. Behind her the final six riders battled across the course, with Zoe Backstedt soaring across the climb to smash the best intermediate time by 50 seconds, which had been recorded just ahead of her by Justyna Czapla of Germany. 

Febe Jooris (Belgium) took over the lead with a time of 20:15, one-third of a second faster than Kvasničkova, picking up valuable time across the second half of the course. 

Czapla only had a short time to enjoy her finish, which was 13 seconds faster than Jooris as Backstedt, the final rider across the line, proved just why she was the clear favourite.

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