Zoe Bäckstedt has signed a full-time WorldTour contract with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, just one race after the team signed her as a trainee for the rest of the 2022 season.
The 17-year-old clearly impressed at the CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées as she helped the team win the opening stage team time trial, before working to secure Krista Doebel-Hickok the overall victory.
Currently the junior world champion in both cyclocross and on the road, Bäckstedt confirmed she will race both disciplines with her new team, something that enticed her to sign with the American squad.
“It makes life a heck of a lot easier, if I’m being honest, than racing for two teams," she said. "There, you get the problem of being pulled in one direction for a road training camp but you get pulled into the cyclocross season and then nothing tends to coordinate.
"But with EF Education-Tibco-SVB, I can do road and then I can switch to cross and do cross for as long as I want to, as many races as I want to and then I can take a break and go back onto the road. That approach of ‘you do what you want to do and we’ll make it work.’ I get to do a full cross season like I want to and I get to race on the road like I want to.”
As well as being accomplished on both the road and in cyclocross - she finished the most recent cyclocross season with 10 victories while riding for Belgian cyclo-cross development squad Acrog-Tormans as a junior - Bäckstedt is also a successful track rider.
At the 2021 European junior track championships, she secured gold medals in the individual pursuit, team pursuit and Madison.
This isn't a surprise, though, when considering how ingrained cycling is within her family. After all, she is the younger sister of current Trek-Segafredo rider Elynor Bäckstedt, as well as the daughter of two former cyclists, too.
“My dad [Magnus Bäckstedt] won Paris-Roubaix [in 2004] so for as long as I can remember, he’s ridden a bike. My mum [Megan Hughes] was the British national champion in the road race and has a track bronze medal in the sprint as a junior. My sister has Worlds medals and now rides in the WorldTour," she explained.
"Cycling is in my blood."
Bäckstedt was courted by multiple teams but found what she wanted at EF Education-Tibco-SVB.
“I spoke with a couple of other teams. I had a Zoom call with Linda [Jackson], the team owner. Just the way I was speaking with her, the way she was speaking with me, how we got along, it seemed to work," Bäckstedt said.
"I went downstairs after that call and I said to my dad, ‘That’s my team. I want to sign for them.’ Just the whole vibe was what I wanted. Linda let me be myself, she was herself. I think we clicked a little bit then. I felt good, I felt confident.
"I looked at some of the riders on the team already. The likes of Abi Smith, I already knew. Lizzy Banks, too. I know a couple of people within the team already so it's nice to know that if I find it a little bit hard the first couple of times, I still have someone I can talk to that I know already that can help me out.”
Clearly, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB are just as excited to have Bäckstedt continue her development with the team. A rider with plenty of potential, founder and owner Linda Jackson spoke glowingly about providing the best opportunities for her to excel at the elite level.
“Zoe is an incredible up and coming talent in both road and cross and I believe that we will provide a great home for her across both disciplines," Jackson said.
"Spotting new talent has always been our strength, but the addition of EF Education First as a co-title partner now enables us to provide the infrastructure and support that riders like Zoe need to progress into top elite level riders.
"We have been working on a CX program for Clara Honsinger, so the addition of Zoe to this effort was a natural fit. Our goal is to provide Zoe with the supportive environment that she needs as she steps up to the elite level.”
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