It wouldn’t be her first World Championship victory, but if Zoe Bäckstedt wins the 2024 Women U23 Cyclocross race on 4 February, the 19 year-old rider for Canyon//SRAM rider will be the first to do so against a field of her peers. After spending her first year out of the Junior ranks knocking heads with Elites and scrapping her way to 2nd in the UCI World Cup U23 overall, Bäckstedt finally gets to take on her U23 direct rivals in a race of their own.
It’s a “luxury” her male ‘cross racing peers have enjoyed for some time, including throughout the 23/24 season. In contrast, Bäckstedt has had to race against the Elite women, including the likes of reigning World Champion Fem Van Empel, former World Champion Ceylin Alvarado and legends like Lucinda Brand. But Bäckstedt hasn’t let the stiff competition from her elders get her down, charging onto the elite podium at several races and even grabbing a win at Gullegem. She ended the UCI World Cup series in 2nd overall, a remarkable feat for a racer just out of the junior ranks.
Bäckstedt is a formidable talent beyond the ‘cross barriers: in 2022 she held the rainbow stripes of Junior World Champion in 4 different disciplines ranging from road to track to ‘cross. It’s this kind of remarkable ability, balanced by an incredibly friendly and fun-loving demeanor, that recently led Red Bull to recruit her as their newest athlete. So keep an eye out for Zoe’s Redbull-painted helmets at the front of the bunch in Tabor - and for the rest of the 2024 road season.