Zoe Bäckstedt takes on the junior girls’ rainbow jersey after exemplary British performance in Leuven

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Zöe Bäckstedt scored a stunning victory for Great Britain in the Junior Women’s World Championships road race in Leuven, Belgium, after winning a two-man sprint to the line.

Just days after winning silver in the time trial since then celebrating her 17th birthday, the Welsh rider executed the perfect sprint to secure the victory.

Bäckstedt had played a two-woman breakaway with American Kaia Schmid who escaped following a series of jabs and saves late in the third of five rounds. With two laps to go, their lead was only eight seconds, but when they took the bell they had over a minute.

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Behind them, the teammates worked very well to disrupt the pursuit, the British team, excellent throughout the race, scoring any attack attempt to close the gap.

Despite a few short-lived attacks, the pair rode well together throughout, communicating well to build their lead. Schmid managed to pass the Briton in almost every corner and may have missed a lap in the last corner which brought the finish line 800m from the line.

Instead, in a cautious final, the two women rode side by side down the slight incline towards the line, and Bäckstedt was able to react instantly when her rival opened her sprint.

The duo had a huge lead on the line, Schmid taking second place and European champion Linda Riedmann (Germany) winning the field kick for the bronze medal.

It was a mind-blowing race from the entire British four-woman squad who created all the defining moves of the race and were always there to score every attempt to reduce the lead duo’s advantage .

How did it happen

Like the junior men’s race on Friday, the junior women stayed in Leuven for their world championships, although unlike Friday’s race, the women completed just five laps of the city circuit, totaling 75.2 km in total. Each of the 15.5km circuits contained four short, steep climbs, making it a hard-hitting course.

On the first of these circuits, the falls which had punctuated the races of the male age categories recurred here, with a number of first victims. Add to that the clear disparity in the level of the peloton and the race quickly stretched out in the streets of Louvain, and almost half of the 112 starters were left behind at the end of the first lap.

Junior Women Road Race Profile

(Image credit: Flanders 2021)

In their bright orange jerseys, the Dutch took the lead early in the race, as did the Americans. However, it was the four Brits who made their presence felt, Flora Perkins opening it during the Wijnpers second ascent.

Her move divided the recently reformed field, and the 18-year-old led a group of just 14 riders, including her teammates Zöe Bäckstedt and Millie Couzens on top.

Underrepresented among the leaders, the Russian and Italian teams led the chasing group, taking advantage of a lack of cohesion up front to bring the group back, ultimately making more than 30 at the forefront.

The British quartet were far from over, however, with Bäckstedt attacking next time ahead of Wijnpers, once again reducing the leading pack, before Perkins made another move as the group rallied. When she was caught, Bäckstedt left, the American Kaia Schmid accompanying her and forming what would be the winning shot.

In the kilometers that followed, with the remaining British and American riders disrupting the Dutch-German pursuit, Bäckstedt and Schmid gradually increased their lead.

Once won however, the rise of the Wijnpers made the difference, with Germany’s Linda Riedmann attacking from below, closing the gap with the leaders. However, although she had two Dutch women to help her with the labor, there was also an American and two British among the seven women chasing the group and they could not get along.

As the leading pair took the bell at the start of the last lap, the chasing group had grown to 12, including the three remaining Britons, although they were led by 1-01 with only 15.6km to go, the Dutch left to do much of the hunting.

With concerted attempts to reduce the leaders ‘advantage only coming sporadically, Bäckstedt and Schmid took a 1-40 lead in Wijnpers’ final climb and the final six kilometers. At the top, Bäckstedt tries to bring down the American, but does not succeed, while when the pursuers tackle the climb, Riedmann makes a last effort to bring the leaders back, but does not succeed, and the jersey reverts to one of the leading duo.

This ended in a sprint between the two leaders as they rode side by side, Schmid opened the sprint but as soon as Bäckstedt kicked in the American sat down to try and lead him up. ‘to the line, but it was not enough with Bäckstedt taking the victory by a full bike length.

2021 UCI ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, WOMEN’S JUNIOR ROAD RACE: Leuven to Leuven (75.2 km)

1. Zöe Bäckstedt (Great Britain) in 1-55-33
2. Kaia Schmid (United States) at the same time
3. Linda Riedmann (Germany) at 57 sec
4. Elise Uijen (Netherlands)
5. Makayla MacPherson (United States)
6. Millie Couzens (Great Britain)
7. Marith Vanhove (Germany)
8. Egllantine Rayer (France)
9. Eleonora Ciabocco (Italy)
10. Mijntje Geurts (Netherlands) all at the same time.


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