Zoe Bäckstedt: 'I'm a first-year pro, racing Paris-Roubaix. It's pretty big'

Eighteen-year-old says her goal is to reach the finish line on Saturday

Zoe Backstedt at a bike race start line
(Image credit: Getty)

If there’s one race in particular that double junior world champion Zoe Bäckstedt has been looking forward to, it’s Paris-Roubaix

She wasn’t sure if she’d ride it this season. After all, she’s only been a pro for three months. But after a strong showing in the early-season Classics, the 18-year-old has cemented her place at EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, and can’t hold back her excitement to take the start line on Saturday. 

“I did a recon yesterday with the girls and we hit the first sector of cobbles and I was just like, ‘Yeah, I do really love this race’,” Bäckstedt tells Cycling Weekly in northern France.

“Every time I hit the cobbles, I had a, well, I say little smile on my face, it was a pretty big smile. I was just loving it, following the girls, following how they were navigating the sectors. 

“Obviously it’ll be different in the race to riding with five other people, but yeah, it’s going to be carnage.” 

Carnage, it seems, that Bäckstedt is more than prepared for. Under the tutelage of her father Magnus, winner of the 2004 men’s edition of the race, the teenager has spent a lifetime learning ahead of her Paris-Roubaix debut. 

“He’s been giving me tips for this race my whole life,” she says. “I already know everything that there is to know about this race, about every single sector pretty much. I’ve got enough information off of him over the years.”

When Bäckstedt lines up for tomorrow's départ in Denain, she’ll do so alongside her older sister, Elynor, who rides for Trek-Segafredo, as well as her father, now a sports director at Canyon-Sram.

It’s a moment she expects to be “full of emotions”, before her focus turns to the jagged, bone-shaking cobbles and her duties with her EF Education-TIBCO-SVB team.

Zoe backstedt

Bäckstedt retained her junior road world title in Wollongong, Australia last year. 

(Image credit: SW Pix)

What’s the junior world champion expecting from her first Roubaix? “A lot of crashes,” she says matter-of-factly. “It’s been raining here all day, so I think it’s going to be pretty slippery out on the course. 

“We went out yesterday and there was one sector that had a lot of standing water in the corners. Considering I was riding legs out, in a summer jacket, I was pretty shocked when I saw it."

For her race debut on Saturday, Bäckstedt's goal is simple: reach the finish line. 

“If I could do that, then that’s a great day for me," she says. "I’m a first-year pro, racing Paris-Roubaix. It’s pretty big. So yeah, If I can finish it, if I can help someone in the team out, get someone in the front group, then that will be great. I’m going out there to enjoy it, as well.” 

Already this season, the teenager has made an impression at EF. She worked her way into a promising move at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and raced to 13th at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Still, she says, the step-up from the junior ranks has been marked. 

“[At Gent-Wevelgem], my Wahoo file was 100km more than what I raced at junior road Worlds,” she says. “By the time we’d gotten to the hills, I’d already done longer than I was racing as a junior. So considering I was still there at the finish of that one, I’m pretty proud of myself.” 

“It’s been a big few months,” Bäckstedt continues. “It’s been tough at times, obviously, but it’s going to be for everyone, no matter if you’re coming up from junior or if you’ve been racing for years. It’s always going to be tough racing with these fields, because they’re all super strong. But I feel like I’ve been ok.”  

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Tom Davidson
News and Features Writer

Tom joined Cycling Weekly as a news and features writer in the summer of 2022, having previously contributed as a freelancer. He is the host of The TT Podcast, which covers both the men's and women's pelotons and has featured a number of prominent British riders. 

An enthusiastic cyclist himself, Tom likes it most when the road goes uphill and actively seeks out double-figure gradients on his rides. 

He's also fluent in French and Spanish and holds a master's degree in International Journalism.