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Zoe Bäckstedt wins junior cyclocross world championships

Seventeen-year-old Brit adds another rainbow jersey to her collection with a dominant display in Fayetteville

Great Britain’s Zoe Bäckstedt powered to the junior women’s cyclocross world title on a dry and fast course in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

It’s the precocious Welsh teenager’s second rainbow jersey in four months and caps off an annus mirabilis which has included a junior world road race title, a silver medal in the junior world time trial, the junior Tour de Yorkshire, three European titles on the track, the junior European cyclocross championships, five junior cyclocross World Cups, and a maiden elite cyclocross win in Essen in December.

Zoe Backstedt World Championships (screenshot via GCN)

Bäckstedt, who contracted Covid at the start of the month, showed there were no lingering signs of the virus as she put on a dominant display befitting her status as the pre-race favourite. Following an early move from the Netherland’s Lauren Molengraaf, Bäckstedt definitively sprinted away from the pack on the key climb halfway through the first lap.

Despite a spirited chase from Leonie Bentveld, the overall winner of the junior World Cup this winter, the seventeen-year-old from Pontyclun never looked like being caught on the fast and wide course (a far cry from the muddy World Cup race on the same circuit in October), eventually finishing over 30 seconds ahead of Bentveld, with Molengraaf in third.

British champion Ella Maclean-Howell, who looked strong throughout the race, made a late move to take an impressive fourth place behind her world champion teammate.

Zoe Backstedt - World Championships presentation (screenshot via GCN)

“If I’m honest I’m just shocked. I’ve had a pretty good season on the road and in ‘cross this year,” Bäckstedt said after the race, with typical understatement.

“I was unlucky with the World Cup and with nationals to have Covid, and miss those, but I think ultimately it made me fight back stronger and come here to put that extra little bit of fire into my race.

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“I was speaking to my coach before I raced and I asked, ‘do you think I should try and attack up the first climb?’ And he said, ‘if your legs are feeling good, then go for it.’ I came into the little kick in second and I just opened the gap and opened the taps. I just went as hard as I could go up there. I got to the top and I had people from the team saying ‘you’ve got ten seconds, five seconds, or whatever the gap was’. I was like, I’m just going to keep going.

“Every lap I made sure to put the effort in up the climb each time, because that’s where I knew I would make the difference. I just put everything together. Yeah, it was a good day.”

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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Simon E | 2 years ago

Watched it on iplayer this evening. Super win for  Zoe but an incredibly boring spectacle.

I also watched the elite women's race and, while that was closer, it looked more like an early season 'grass crit' than world class cyclocross.

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