Zoe Backstedt hopes a season of WorldTour-level road racing with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB will help her improve as a cyclocross rider, and the talented teenager aims to combine the two disciplines in the coming years.
The 18-year-old won the road, time trial and cyclo-cross world titles as a junior, but has now made the jump to the lower 23-year-old categories. Despite falling heavily in the early stages of Sunday’s European Under-23 Cyclocross Championships, Backstedt battled back to finish fifth, 1:53 behind clear winner Puck Pieterse.
After signing with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB for two years, the teenager hopes her first full season as a professional cyclist will also help her improve her cyclocross form.
“I would like to (combine cyclocross and road),” Backstedt said.
“I really enjoy cyclocross and it’s really good for my technical skills and you can see that when I’m racing on the road.”
“When I race on the road, you can see the difference in resistance when you go back to cyclocross. When you go into the longest hour-long cyclocross races, you have the stamina to do those extra 10 minutes at full throttle.
“It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but it can be.”
Backstedt hopes to ‘find herself’ during her first year with EF Education and has her eye on the Spring Classics following in the footsteps of her father Magnus Backstedt, who won the Paris Roubaix 18 years ago.
“My goal is just to help the team and try to get some results,” Backstedt explained.
“Also developing myself as a cyclist. I don’t see myself looking for wins yet. It’s going to be a big step up from junior to the WorldTour ranks.
“Just finding myself and trying to complete the days of 140, 160 kilometers. I can be myself, I can ride how I like and how the team needs help. I don’t see myself being the best on mountain days, but put me in Roubaix or Tour of Flanders, that’s where in my head I think I’ll do better.
“Anything can happen in the road season and I just have to take it one race at a time.”
Backstedt finished second in the Coupe de France cyclocross event at Nommay last month, beaten only by teammate Clara Honsinger. She hopes to break into the top 10 at an elite round of the World Cup soon and is set to battle Anna Kay for the British national cyclo-cross title in January.
“I just want to try and get up the field and get a couple of top 10 finishes at World Cups or something,” Backstedt added.
“It will mean a lot to me if I can race in the national championships kit next year.”
Backstedt was competing in his first major championship as an under-23 rider this weekend at a treacherous Namur circuit. After getting off to a perfect start, the British driver crashed hard on a muddy bank and landed on cobblestones at the bottom.
The crash also resulted in a double puncture and he lost 36 seconds to the early leaders before changing bikes.
Dutch rider Puck Pieterse scored an impressive victory finishing 50 seconds ahead of French teenager Line Burquier in second and Shirin Van Anrooij in third.
Backstedt dropped back to battle Marie Schreiber for fourth, but faded on the final lap to finish 26 seconds out of the medals.
“I’m happy with that, it was an interesting race, but fifth place is pretty good,” added Backstedt.
“I just saw the accident while icing my knee, it was pretty spectacular. The moment I fell, I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I had a double puncture and my gear levers were crooked. The punctures were fine for the climb, it’s just cobblestone so you ride them as hard as you can.
“Yeah, it’s going to mess up the team a bit, but it’s the European Championships so you just have to ride it and it wasn’t too far from the pits.
“I felt very good on the bike. I was catching up with a lot of people on the climb, which was actually my strongest point of the day for some reason. It’s usually never my strongest point, but I felt like I could hit it really hard.
“I just used that to my advantage and played it safe on that descent.”