Britain’s Zoe Backstedt lived up to her billing as favourite in the women’s junior time trial, grabbing gold in a stacked field by an incredibly sizeable margin from Justyna Czapla (Germany) and Febe Jooris (Belgium).
“This was one of my biggest goals of the season and I’m so happy – I did so much work for this, I’m just so happy it paid off,” the 17-year-old said after a brilliant performance. “This one means a lot.”
The junior women raced over a 14.1km circuit in Wollongong in more perfect Australian spring conditions, 19 degrees with the slightest of breezes. On a relatively short course, the times on the leaderboard were expected to be tight – and they were for much of the morning.
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Hannah Kunz (Germany) set the early pace with a 20:32.96, and it took a very strong ride from the rising talent of Anna van der Meiden (Netherlands) to beat that, the Dutch rider crossing the line an impressive 16 seconds quicker. Van der Meiden has already signed with Team DSM for next season and it was easy to see why as she completely at home on the bike.
After Van der Meiden took her place in the hotseat, the next nearest challenge came from Elisabeth Ebrad (Estonia) who had been 12 seconds down at the split, but managed to make that up on the second half of the course to cross the line just in the red by less than a second.
But while the Estonian was less than a second down, Eliska Kvasnickova (Czech Republic) managed to wrestle the lead from Van der Meiden by just 0.83s as she powered across the lead to take that top spot. But with the European champion and the heavy favourite still to go, it was set to be a nervy wait.
‘Wow!’ - Backstedt stunned by 1:35 winning margin
Backstedt was on the course and clearly meant business. She smashed her way through the first time check a whopping 50 seconds quicker than the rest of the field on a day that the others must have wondered if they were riding in the wrong gear.
“It is one of my goals of the season, I came second last year and I’d like to win – I really like the course,” Backstedt had said pre-race, adding that the layout suited her. She is signed to Team EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, but before turning her attention fully to riding pro, had unfinished business at the worlds.
While she was lighting up the course, Febe Jooris crossed the line to take the lead by 0.33s as the gaps continued to be as tight as the short course had suggested they would be. European champion Czapla though was the first to come through well up on the clock and she then took provisional gold with only Backstedt left out on the road.
But Backstedt was so far up in time, she looked as if she could sit up and take in the sights. She didn’t – keeping her cool and smashing her way through the second half of the course as well to win in 18:26.78, an unbelievable 1:35 ahead of second place. She did just about half raise an arm as she flew across the line in a different league to the rest of the field as Eurosport commentator Rob Hatch declared it "a birth of one of the best riders you will ever have seen ride a bike".
To put that into perspective, her winning margin was the same time gap that separated second place from 25th. Backstedt had set out to upgrade her silver medal from Flanders last year to gold and she did it in style.
“I crossed the line and I was pretty sure I was up, I came into it aiming for a sub-20 and to get a sub-19, sub-18.30, yeah – wow,” she beamed afterwards. “It was far from easy, I came into it knowing the climb was going to be tough. I just kept pushing and pushing, I find it so much fun. I don’t know what to say!”
Highlights: 'Bullet' Backstedt comes of age to win junior time trial title
The bad news for the rest of the field is that Backstedt is the defending champion in the road race and is set to go for the double next Saturday when the junior women’s road race takes place. She currently holds four rainbow jerseys – having won the cyclo-cross world title earlier this year, along with the Madison on the track to go with last year’s road title and this unforgettable time trial victory.
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