A family affair for 'disappointed' Zoe Bäckstedt at the World Championships, as 16-year-old takes GB's first medal

A Bäckstedt has been on the women's junior TT Worlds podium for the past three years, with father Magnus in the commentary booth as Zoe claimed silver

Zoe Backstedt
(Image credit: Getty)

"I don't think I've ever been that nervous, especially when we saw the intermediate times," says Paris-Roubaix and Tour de France stage winner Magnus Bäckstedt on Eurosport commentary as he watched his 16-year-old daughter Zoe compete in the junior women's ITT at the Flanders World Championships.

Zoe was in the hot seat at the finish line in Bruges, as Russian Alena Ivanchenko went through the time check only a couple of seconds quicker than the Brit, the only rider that could stop her from becoming world champion.

By the finish line, the gap between these top two was 10 seconds, Ivanchenko improving all the way up to the line to keep the rainbow bands in Russian hands after Aigul Gareeva's triumph in 2019.

"I'm happy with it," Bäckstedt said of her silver medal, despite looking absolutely gutted in the hot seat when Ivanchenko crossed the line, having pipped her at the last. "Obviously disappointed that I didn't get the win, that’s what I came for, that’s what everyone comes her for, but for my first World Champs and still being 16 I've got to be very happy with a silver medal."

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A Bäckstedt has been on the junior women's TT podium every Championships since 2018, Elynor taking two bronzes in a row, with Zoe counting the number over the colour of the medal for who currently has the bragging rights in the house.

"She still one-ups me on that," Zoe said, "but just being able to call her whenever I want to, speak to her over the past week has really calmed my nerves coming into the race, being in the hotel with GB and just being able to speak to her and have a friendly voice really helps. She has all the experience so I can ask her all the things like how hard to go down the start ramp and in the first few metres how much you commit, it’s been really nice to see her. I wish she was racing but she’ll be back on the bike soon."

As for the presence of her dad, he was locked away in the commentary booth, meaning text messages had to suffice as his daughter made her Worlds debut.

"No I didn't hear him at all, I had some messages from him this morning saying good luck, that really helped, it would have been nice to see him at the finish.

"It’s my first Worlds and I really really enjoyed it, the atmosphere was amazing coming out for the first few kilometres, there were so many people and in the final it helped me press on more. I heard some voices I knew and people screaming in English and I could see some flags, it really helped me."

Bäckstedt's idol is Marianne Vos, "she can do everything, everything I like to do as well," as the young Brit looks to keep combining disciplines as she grows as a rider, with a particular penchant for cyclocross, "just something about racing in a cold field in winter is the best thing ever".

With more years in the junior ranks ahead of her, her goal remains to capture the ITT rainbow jersey, but first, there's the junior road race on Thursday.

"On Thursday we’ll see the course [for real] but I’ve seen it on Google Earth, I've seen what the climbs are like, they suit me being short, maybe we go for the win but anything can happen."

Jonny Long

Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.


Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).


I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.