Zoe Bäckstedt ready for World Championship road race defence after time trial dominance

17-year-old Welsh rider will be the favourite on the start line of Saturday's road race

Zoe Bäckstedt at the World Championships 2022
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After dominating the junior women's time trial at the World Championships on Tuesday, Zoe Bäckstedt is now looking forward to the road race on Saturday.

She will start the event not only as defending champion, but as the favourite for the crown for a second year running, such is her form. 

The Welsh rider put over 90 seconds into her nearest rival, Justyna Czapla of Germany, in Tuesday's event, showing how far ahead of her peers she is. 

It might be a case of the other national teams joining forces in an attempt to negate the 17-year-old's power over the 67.2km course around Wollongong. However, Bäckstedt sounds ready for the race.

“It’s going to be a tough one; I’m looking forward to it," she said after her victory on Tuesday. "Now I know what the course is like under a full gas effort, obviously we have a couple more climbs but it’s going to be interesting and fun and very early in the morning! 

"From the time trial course, I think the road course suits me, but there’s some steeper climbs put in for the road race, it’s a little longer, there’s some more corners, so anything could happen on the day as well.”

While the route might be under 70km for the junior women, there are still 998 metres of altitude to be gained over it, which is mainly because of the four ascents of Mount Pleasant.

Not only is Bäckstedt the defending road race champion, and now the world champion in the junior time trial, but also the junior world champion in cyclocross and in the Madison on the track. A four-time world champion at present, casually. 

Tuesday was also a great day for Wales, with the winner of the men's junior time trial, Josh Tarling, also hailing from west of the Severn Bridge.

“I planned to try and get under 20 minutes. That was our goal,” Backstedt explained in the mix-zone after she had been presented with her second rainbow jersey on the road.

"This year I knew that I wanted to win it and came in hoping to win it and I pulled it out of the bag on the day," she continued.

“Basically because it was only 14 kilometres, I planned to just go as hard as possible for the whole thing because there was a couple of descents and then through the corners you can recover as wel. Any moment where you could put power down it was going as hard as possible to try and get my best time.”

Despite it looking like it, it was "far from easy" for the rider from south Wales, she said.

"My coach had told me [from] the car that if I kept going as I was, I would win. And I crossed the line and I was pretty sure I was up, I was trying to look up at the board,” she said. “I came in aiming for a sub 20 [minute time], and I ended up with 18:30, so wow.

“It was far from easy, if I’m honest. We rode it [the course] on recon day and I was riding with some of the pros and getting some advice and having fun on it. I came into it knowing the climb was going to be tough. Being the last person off I had already seen some of the times at the half-way point and at the finish. I just kept pushing and pushing.”

The one shame for Bäckstedt is that the junior women's TT, which was 20km shorter than the elite equivalent, was on a different course, which left her unable to compare her effort with those riders already on the Women's WorldTour. She will join EF Education-TIBCO-SVB on a professional basis next season.

“I would have loved it if the elites had done the same lap as we had, and they had just done two laps or something like that, so I could kind of compare times," she said.

"But yeah, I mean, it gives me some good markers for how I'm going and hopefully next year I'll get some good time trials in on the road. “But I reckon I could have done a decent time in the elites, but we'll never know because obviously conditions are different. They do longer, you have to pace it differently and everything like that. So I can't fully say."

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