In a dominant display of determination and skill, Zoe Bäckstedt claimed the U23 Women’s UCI Cyclo-cross World Champion title at the 2024 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships held in Tábor, Czechia on February 5th. Bäckstedt’s outstanding performance on the challenging course secured her yet another rainbow jersey to add to her already impressive collection.
With pre-race nerves running high, Bäckstedt approached the race with a clear plan in mind. “I was nervous coming into the race because I wanted to win this so bad. My plan was to ride my own race, to ride it hard at the start, but not use up all my reserves in the first 1-2 laps and still have something left for the final. You can’t go slow on this course, you can’t go easy, you have to go hard,” she said afterwards.
Bäckstedt quickly established a dominant lead with a gap of 23 seconds after the first of four laps, which she then extended over the next two laps. A tight battle for the remaining medals saw Kristýna Zemanová (CZE) take silver ahead of Leonie Bentveld (NED), who took home bronze.
Bäckstedt’s victory in Tábor capped off an outstanding cyclo-cross season, which included three elite World Cup podium finishes, second place overall in the U23 World Cup and a U23 European title.
An electric crowd in Tábor witnessed Bäckstedt’s victory. “The crowd was incredible. I didn’t expect that many people. I had people from British Cycling out on the course trying to shout things to me, and I really couldn’t hear much over the cheering, chainsaws, and noise from the crowd. That type of atmosphere pushes you on a little bit more.”
One person of particular significance witnessed Zoe’s stunning victory. “It was great to have Maggy (Bäckstedt) and our CANYON//SRAM team mechanic in the pits,” she admitted. “On the last lap, when I passed Dad and Jochen (Lamade), I started to smile and was happy they could be there in the pits for me. Only in the finish straight did I realise I had won it!”
Reflecting on her first rainbow win outside the junior category, Bäckstedt concluded, “It hasn’t sunk in yet… I can see my reflection in the camera now, which is pretty cool, as it’s the first time I’ve seen myself in the jersey! I’m over the moon to have the rainbow jersey on my shoulders and to take it home.”