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UCI Road World Championships: Zoe Bäckstedt celebrates birthday with double rainbow

The British rider soloed away just 10km into the junior women's road race.

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WOLLONGONG, Australia (VN) — Zoe Bäckstedt celebrated her 18th birthday with a 50km solo ride that ended with another rainbow jersey at the UCI Road World Championships.

After taking a dominating win in the junior time trial, the British rider turned her focus to defending the road race title she took in dramatic fashion in Leuven last year.

She hardly waited to get her birthday party underway, attacking the group on a small downhill section just 10km into the 67km race. Once she had a gap, there was little that her rivals could do to bring her back.

“It feels amazing. I never planned to go that early, but the moment was there, so I took it. You have to do that,” Bäckstedt said afterward. “We came down the first little bit of downhill and up the little climb. I managed to get on the inside of some of the girls and basically kept pushing on the first bit of downhill. When I was looking at my Wahoo it was about 65kph.

“I was spinning as much as I could because I knew that you’d make up some speed there. I was confident in my cornering so I took those corners on the downhill as fast as I could and I tried to brake as little as possible. I managed to get a gap on the little downhill and after the last corner I kicked up the little climb and that was pretty much it.”

Also read: UCI Road World Championships: Zoe Bäckstedt soloes over 50km to take junior women’s road title

Given her performances over the last year, which have seen hear earn a pro contract with the EF Education-TIBCO-SVB squad for next season, many expected Bäckstedt to dominate the race. However, riding away from a strong bunch of juniors less than a quarter into the race is far easier said than done.

Bäckstedt had to channel all the power that took her to TT glory earlier in the week as her gap, which had been close to three minutes, began coming down. Attacks were coming from behind and a concerted move by Eglantine Rayer (France) and Nienke Vinke (Netherlands) saw her advantage dropping inside the final two laps.

She managed to stem the flow and the gap steadied out and, spurred on by the roadside fans, she rode across the line with an advantage 2:07 on the chasers.

“There was a moment in my head when I thought they were coming back quite quickly. It went from about 2:55 to 2:20 in a short amount of time. But the gap was over two minutes, and I knew that I had just over a lap to go so I knew that I could hold it as long as I went over the climb as hard as possible,” she said.

“There were so many people shouting for me over the climb, which made me dig in to my maximum. It pushed me on and then I had my coach come up to me with three or four kilometers to go and she told me I had two minutes. I asked: ‘will I make it?’ She said ‘100 percent’.

“When the gap went out to two minutes it was just about trying to hold the tempo they were pushing and try to keep going.”

World champion in four events

By retaining her junior road race world title, Bäckstedt is now a world champion in four separate events. She is, of course, the title holder in the time trial and road race, but she also has junior world titles in the Madison on the track and in cyclocross.

It’s unlikely that she will keep this number of titles for too long as she plans to focus on just a couple of areas as she turns pro in January.

“The track one wasn’t planned. My coach asked me, and I only did one training session before I went to that race. I flew in the day before. That one was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing, but I enjoy riding my bike,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what discipline it’s in, I just have fun when I’m doing it. There’s no pressure on me to perform at my best, it’s just having fun. When I do have fun, my results come.

“I probably will do less on the track because it’s my first year with EF and I’d like to just focus on the road and cyclocross. If the option is there and the moment is there then, it’s racing my bike and I do what makes me happy.”