Zoe Bäckstedt is confident going into the Junior World Championship road race next week, and she has every right to be.
The 17-year-old completed a clean sweep at the Watersley Challenge juniors race last weekend, winning the overall title as well as all three stages and the mountains classification jersey.
Bäckstedt told Cycling Weekly that, with this in mind, she knows “they’re going to be watching me” when she lines up on the start line in Australia with the aim of defending her title she won in Flanders last year.
“I know girls from the other teams will be going into it now and going 'yeah, Zoe is the one to watch'. They know that and I know that they’re all going to be watching me. Without sounding full of myself, you saw the way I performed last weekend,” Bäckstedt said.
However reflecting back in more detail on her last race before heading to Wollongong, Bäckstedt, daughter of the Classics specialist Magnus, then looked to modestly play down her recent success.
“Yeah, I guess it was a pretty good weekend. I had three from three so no complaints there,” she said. “I’d done [Watersley] before so I knew what to expect going into it and was just excited to get racing there again and to see how the form was before the Worlds,” she added.
The form is evidently red hot as the 17-year-old attacked regularly to push the pace. Her overall winning margin of six minutes suggested that the race was very much one way traffic.
Her only rival was the weather and Bäckstedt explained that at times it nearly got the better of her.
She said: “It was raining for the first two days so that definitely played a part, particularly with how corners were and things like that. The corners just before one of the cobbled climbs on one stage were very wet. Cornering on wet cobbles is always carnage, but good fun.
“On the first day, I just attacked from the gun kind of thing, then got off the front at one point with the Czech national champ. I then basically just went solo a lap after that. I had the time trial in my mind too and knew it was a course that suited me to a certain extent so yeah, it was a case of just going out having fun and riding through the rainstorm. Then the last day was just a case of enjoying it.”
Winning a race by a gap of more than six minutes is significant at any level and Bäckstedt explained that the result has left her and her coaches convinced that her form is continuing to head in the right direction as she builds towards the road race on 24 September.
“It was pretty much perfect prep for me. I’ve got a good week's worth of riding before the time trial at the Worlds now when we get to Australia so there’s enough time just for some final detailing and tapering and to make sure the legs are continuing to go perfectly. I’m just excited to get out there now and embrace the experience,” she said.
The 17-year-old explained that looking past the Worlds, she is excited at the prospect of continuing to ride with her new team and being part of different training methods and experiences that will aid her development.
She said: “I’ve already done the Tour of the Pyrenees with the team. That was really insightful for me as it was a stage race so there was a bit more to it. I got to see how everyone was pre-race in the days leading into it, then how everyone does recovery and how the rest of the thing is just planned.
“It’s just the dream setup for me. I really love being with the group and couldn’t imagine anything better.”