The 2022 Cyclocross World Championships title races are underway, with the Junior Women’s race kicking off Saturday’s races.
Brit Zoe Backstedt, winner of the first three UCI Cyclocross World Cups this season, wasted no time in showing her competitors and fans that her recent bout with COVID-19 did not damage her chances of winning her second rainbow jersey.
Backstedt, the daughter of former road pro Magnus Backstedt, is also the Junior Women’s road World Champion.
Backstedt initially looked content to follow wheels. She slotted into second behind Dutch holeshot winner Lauren Molengraaf on the starting straight, and remained there on the descent.
As the path turned up, she started to look around.
Backstedt and teammate Ella Maclean-Howell hit the major climb, saw that rival Leonie Bentveld from The Netherlands was further back, and unleashed a big attack.
Backstedt accelerated away from the group over the top of the climb, with Maclean-Howell also gapping the rest. Bentveld was slow to respond, and suddenly, the British favorite had ten seconds in hand.
Dutch Double Down
Coming through with one lap down, the chasers were already 19 seconds down and looking at each other. Canadian Ava Holmgren took up the lead, but would later falter on one of the short technical peaks.
Soon Bentveld, the World Cup overall winner, emerged to lead the chase, but the race for the jersey was already over. Bentveld distanced the others to solidify her position as next-best, with her compatriot Molengraaf following behind in bronze medal position.
A Tight Race for Fourth
While Backstedt, Bentveld and Molengraaf were away on their medal-winning rides, the biggest suspense was with the wide-angle podium positions.
France’s Lilou Fabregue, Maclean-Howell and Federica Venturelli were locked into a battle for fourth.
Maclean-Howell used the climb again to launch an attack and take fourth. Venturelli outkicked Febregue for fifth.
North Americans Represent
Canadian sisters Ava and Isabella Holmgren had different starts, with Isabella far behind on the first lap, but the sisters came together to finish top ten with Ava in seventh and her sister just 11 seconds in arrears.
U.S. National Champ Katherine Sarkisov rode inside the top ten and finished 11th, just ahead of teammate Keira Bond.
“It was a great race, it was awesome to have a huge crowd here,” Sarkisov said after the race. “I raced over in Europe over Christmas but there weren’t any spectators. The course was awesome, it was a ton of fun. Even the 39 steps, they hurt, but it was still fun.”
Sarkisov podiumed in Europe, and had higher expectations of herself today. “I’ll be honest I’m not super happy with [the result], my legs felt fine, but the rest of my body started fading by the last two laps,” she explained. “Usually, I finish stronger towards the end, so I don’t think it was my best day, but I did my best.”
Backstedt Methodical in Her Approach
“I’m just shocked,” Backstedt said after her winning ride.
Her approach, however, shocked the other racers but not her coach.
“I was speaking to my coach before my race, and I was like, do you think I should attack on the first climb, and he said if your legs are feeling good, go for it,” she explained after her win.
Knowing she was best on the climb, she kept using it to her advantage. “Every lap I made sure I put the effort in on the climb, because that’s where I knew I would make a difference.”
What a difference she made. Backstedt won by 32 seconds.
See the full results below.
2022 Fayetteville UCI Cyclocross World Championships Results: Junior Women
|1.||4||BACKSTEDT Zoe||United Kingdom||2004||41:16||-|
|4.||5||MACLEAN-HOWELL Ella||United Kingdom||2004||42:22||+1:06|
|10.||26||KOPECKY Julia||Czech Republic||2004||43:19||+2:03|
|11.||6||SARKISOV Katherine||United States||2004||43:23||+2:07|
|12.||8||BOND Keira||United States||2004||44:09||+2:53|
|13.||25||JERABKOVA Barbora||Czech Republic||2004||44:22||+3:06|
|14.||9||FRASER Chloe||United States||2004||44:39||+3:23|
|15.||24||HLADIKOVA Katerina||Czech Republic||2004||45:26||+4:10|
|18.||7||ASELTINE Mia||United States||2004||45:39||+4:23|
|20.||22||HANAKOVA Eliska||Czech Republic||2005||46:00||+4:44|
|23.||23||DLASKOVA Vanda||Czech Republic||2005||46:52||+5:36|
|24.||10||WESTENFELDER Elsa||United States||2005||48:54||+7:38|
See our full coverage of the 2022 Cyclocross World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas here.