UCI Road World Championships: Zoe Bäckstedt soloes over 50km to take junior women’s road title

Eglantine Rayer and Nienke Vinke took silver and bronze in a two-up sprint two minutes later.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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Some people get rainbow Funfetti cakes for their birthdays. Zoe Bäckstedt got a rainbow jersey for hers.

Just days after blitzing the competition in the junior women’s individual TT at the UCI Road World Championships, the British rider led nearly wire to wire in the road race to claim her second rainbow jersey of the week on her 18th birthday.

About two minutes back, Eglantine Rayer (France) and Nienke Vinke (Netherlands) battled it out for the remaining medals over the course of the fourth and final lap of the city circuit in Wollongong, Australia. Riding from second position, Rayer opened up her sprint first and held on for silver, Vinke coming in moments later for bronze.

Entering the 67km race as a favorite after winning the individual time trial, Bäckstedt was no doubt being watched by her peers. But it didn’t matter much as the British rider took advantage of the first climb on the first lap to make her opponents hurt, then ride clear on the descent. Her lead rose quickly to over two minutes and never came into doubt as she rode 57km solo for a sweep of the junior women’s rainbow jerseys.

“I was in tears from a kilometer to go,” she said. “There were so many people out on course just shouting my name, shouting happy birthday, especially on the climb — that’s where I needed it the most.”

Also read: UCI Road World Championships: Emil Herzog pips Antonio Morgado for men’s junior title

How it happened

The race had been underway for less than 10km before Bäckstedt drove the pace on the first climb, blowing many riders out the back of the peloton before many had the chance to settle in.

She kept pushing on the descent and opened up a gap, splitting the race behind her. 

But that wasn’t the plan heading into the race.

“No, not in the slightest,” she said when asked if she had planned to take off so early in the race.

“I had planned to go a lap to go, something like that. And I came up the climb the first time and I felt really good. And I was climbing at the front, which for a climb like that and for me, the rider I am, that’s not predicted.”

Eliska Kvasnickova (Czech Republic) went off solo from the first chase group, measuring about 20 strong, to try to reach Bäckstedt, who carried a 46-second lead already after the first lap. 

Kvasnickova started to lose the pace on the second lap’s climb up Mount Pleasant, coming back within sight of the chase group. Meanwhile, Bäckstedt’s lead grew to two minutes by the start of the third lap. By the bell lap, she enjoyed a further 20 second advantage as the chasers began fighting for the other medals. 

Eglantine Rayer (France) attacked the climb on lap three, but would come back. And soon Nienke Vinke (Netherlands) tried her luck with a solo move on the same lap.

On the final lap, another group of two, Julia Kopecky (Czech Republic) and Noëlle Rüetschi (Switzerland) went clear and tailed Vinke. Kopecky fell back to the chase group on the final climb as Rayer made her way up to and blasted past Rüetschi. The French rider then made contact with Vinke.

As the chase group came within 15 seconds of the duo inside the final 3km, Vinke attacked Rayer and opened up a gap, but Rayer was undeterred and fought back to regain the slipstream. 

About two minutes after Bäckstedt sealed the deal on her 50km solo move, Rayer rode Vinke’s wheel into the finishing straight and opened up her sprint early, holding on to take second place. 

Top 10

  1. Zoe Bäckstedt (Great Britain) – 1:47:05
  2. Eglantine Rayer (France) – 2:07
  3. Nienke Vinke (Netherlands) – same time
  4. Francesca Pellegrini (Italy) – 2:19
  5. Maho Kakita (Japan) – 2:21
  6. Malwina Mul (Poland) – same time
  7. Julia Kopecky (Czech Republic) – s.t.
  8. Eleonora Ciabocco (Italy) – s.t.
  9. Xaydee Van Sinaey (Belgium) – s.t.
  10. Alizée Rigaux (France) – s.t.


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