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Introducing Elynor Bäckstedt, British cobbles queen in waiting

Welsh 18-year-old has a contract with Trek-Segafredo and a dream of following in her father's footsteps with a Paris-Roubaix victory.

Elynor Bäckstedt is patiently waiting to capture her cobbles crown.

As the daughter of 2004 Paris-Roubaix champion Magnus Bäckstedt and former British national champion Megan Hughes, the 18-year-old Elynor seemed destined to be a bike racer, and so far has more than lived up to her fate.

Bäckstedt has twice hit the podium at the junior world time trial championships and rode to 35th overall at the 2019 Tour de Yorkshire on a bicycle restricted to junior gears.

Having earned a breakout contract with Trek-Segafredo in a move that made her one of the youngest in the female peloton, Bäckstedt’s debut WorldTour season was scuttled by the coronavirus stop and then a broken leg suffered in a training crash. Six months after the injury, the pedals are turning again and Bäckstedt is ready to begin paving the way toward her dream race: Paris-Roubaix.

“I love the cobbles,” she told VeloNews. “Living here in Oudenaarde [Flanders] is literally the best place to ride. Like I have everything that I need on my doorstep. I have hills, I have cobbles, I have the canals to go flat – literally everything. And the weather is just like Wales, so that doesn’t make any difference to me either.”

Though a ride at next April’s inaugural Paris-Roubaix may be a few months too soon for Bäckstedt, the race sits front-and-center of her ambitions.

“It’s incredible that there’s a women’s Roubaix,” Bäckstedt said. “I hope to win that race someday. It’s a great feeling to be able to race the same race that my dad once won.” 

Magnus Bäckstedt won Paris Roubaix in 2004 before moving to Liquigas one year later. Photo: Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Bäckstedt is shifting back into training after a long recovery from the broken tibia she suffered in May, and while she’s been able to put in some strong training rides, she admitted the timeline for her return to competition is still uncertain.

When Bäckstedt does get the wheels turning again, she’ll be in the company of some of the world’s best as she trains and races with her Trek-Segafredo teammates, including the likes of world and national champions Lizzie Deignan, Elisa Longo Borghini, and Ellen van Dijk.

Although the 18-year-old says she’s not overawed by such decorated teammates, van Dijk is a particular source of inspiration as “the type of rider that I aspire to be.” Van Dijk has made her mark as one of the leading cobbles-crushers and time trialists in the peloton, and Bäckstedt shares her love of the pavé and the penchant for suffering essential to success racing against the clock.

“I’ve always been able to put myself in pain for no reason, and I quite enjoy it, which is strange,” she joked. “It’s because of that, that me and the team think I may head toward being a one-day racer, sprinter, powerhouse kind of rider. And I’ve always been really good at time trials – maybe because I can put up with pain.”

When back home in Wales, Bäckstedt says she often trains with her father, who took victory in Roubaix in 2004, and placed fourth a year later. Just as she described Magnus “motorpacing” her, albeit on a bicycle rather than a motorized scooter, the 18-year-old will be looking to follow her father’s lead by adding a winner’s cobblestone to the Bäckstedt family collection in the coming decade.

Be sure to pick up the forthcoming VeloNews Magazine for a deeper dive into Elynor Bäckstedt’s background, motivations, and pathway to the WorldTour