Even by her own standards, Zoe Bäckstedt’s ride in this morning’s World Championships junior road race was special.
The Welsh rider spent just 15 minutes alongside her rivals on her 18th birthday, before she broke free on a descent and powered alone to victory in Wollongong, Australia. It was the dominant display many expected of her before the race, and one that solidified her status as one of the sport's most promising young talents.
Throughout the race, Bäckstedt navigated the 67.2km course with ease, looking as assured in the corners as she did on the challenging ascents of the steep Mount Pleasant Road. As she came across the line, she sat up and wiped the tears from her eyes, smiling as she toasted a winning margin of over two minutes.
France’s Eglatine Rayer took the silver medal ahead of Dutch 18-year-old Nienke Vinke in a two-up sprint for second place.
The course comprised four laps of a 17km circuit that was almost identical to the one where Bäckstedt won the junior women's individual time trial on Tuesday.
Speaking after her victory in the road race, Bäckstedt revealed that she hadn't originally planned to attack so early.
"I planned to with a lap to go, or something like that, and I came over the climb the first time and I felt really good," the 18-year-old said. "I was climbing at the front which, for a climb like that and for me, the rider I am, is not predicted.
"I was in tears from a kilometre to go. There were so many people out on the course shouting my name and happy birthday, especially on the climb. That's where I needed it the most."
Last year in Leuven, Bäckstedt claimed her first road world title, pipping her breakaway companion Kaia Schmid in a sprint to the line. Since then she has enjoyed a commanding season on the junior circuit, notably winning the Tour of Flanders by a minute back in May.
Bäckstedt continued her fine form right up to this year's World Championships. Earlier this month, she completed a clean sweep at the Watersley Challenge juniors race, where she won the overall title as well as all three stages and the mountains classification jersey.
The Welsh rider, who also holds junior world titles in cyclocross and the Madison, will race on the WorldTour for EF Education-TIBCO-SVB next year.
UCI road world championships 2022 - women's junior road race (67.2km)
1. Zoe Bäckstedt (GBr), in 1-47-05
2. Eglantine Rayer (Fra), at 2-07
3. Nienke Vinke (Ned), at same time
4. Francesca Pellegrini (Ita), at 2-19
5. Maho Kakita (Jap)
6. Julia Kopech (Cze)
7. Eleonora Ciabocco (Ita)
8. Xaydee van Sinaey (Bel)
9. Alizée Rigaux (Fra)
10. Noëlle Rüetschi (Swi), all at 2-21
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