Clara Honsinger tops teammate Zoe Bäckstedt to win twice in two days

US champion hits the ground running in Europe with back-to-back wins in Nommay, France.

Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

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Clara Honsinger dropped EF Education-TIBCO-SVB teammate Zoe Bäckstedt in the second round of the Coupe de France to take her second victory in two days in Nommay.

Spurred on by her win Saturday, which saw her beat Frenchwoman Amandine Fouquenet by almost a minute despite an early crash, Honsinger put on another dominant performance Sunday. Without the early crash, she was able to put all of her effort into kicking away from her rivals and crossed the line a massive 1:14 ahead of Bäckstedt.

The double victory in France, on Saturday and Sunday, continue the strong start to the cyclocross season for U.S. champion Honsinger. The 25-year-old won her first race of the season at Waterloo earlier this month, while the Nommay doubleheader was her first action in Europe.

“The start went much better than [Saturday]. I immediately found myself in third place and I didn’t experience the same complications as in the first race. Yesterday’s victory alone would have already made this weekend a successful trip, but I’m obviously even happier to achieve the double. It’s never easy, even if the gaps seemed made, we had to do everything to the full,” Honsinger told French website Direct Velo.

“We don’t live far from each other, we train together. She pushes me to my limits on a daily basis. I know she says she has a lot to learn from me, but I think it’s even more true the other way around.”

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Bäckstedt, who is building up for her first full season on the road in 2023 after graduating out of the junior ranks, enjoyed a far stronger Sunday than she had Saturday. Bäckstedt finished down in sixth in the opening race of the weekend over two minutes down, but she was far closer to her teammate in the second.

The 18-year-old is still getting up to speed in CX following a busy road season and a bout of food poisoning in recent weeks. She started her season in Ardooie last Thursday.

“I got on my cyclocross bike for the first time less than 10 days ago, so I guess it’s normal that everything isn’t optimal yet. The fact of having already had better feelings (today) reassures me and gives me confidence for the deadlines to come. I think it could come back pretty soon,” Bäckstedt told Direct Velo.

“Once I came back from Australia, I took 10 days to breathe. Then two days after I started training again, I got food poisoning and had to quit for another four days. I resumed last Monday, I didn’t do much.”

This season is the first time that EF Education-TIBCO-SVB has run an off-road program. Previously, Honsinger has raced for the Cannondale-Crossworld for the cyclocross season, but EF Education announced in August that it would support the U.S. national champion all year around.

Bäckstedt is also racing for the American team this winter after joining the road squad midway through 2022. She previously raced for the Tormas-Acrog CX team. Honsinger and Bäckstedt are both living in Oudenaarde during the cyclocross season and regularly training together.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.