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Zoe Bäckstedt: "Sharing a team with my dad feels like growing up again"

One of cycling’s biggest up and coming talents, Zoe Bäckstedt joined us on the Cross is Boss podcast. We learn more about Zoe’s story with topics such as her evolution as a cyclo-cross rider to being on Canyon//SRAM Racing together with her dad Magnus Bäckstedt.


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Zoe, you live in Belgium during the winter months. Do you like it over here?


Zoe Bäckstedt: "Yes, I love it. I found a place I enjoy being there and I've got people near that I can train with, so why not be in Belgium. It probably rains less in Belgium than it does in the UK. It still rains a lot, but I'll take it. If I was to start training in the dry, I am more than happy to ride outside for about three hours at a maximum. The rest would then be on the turbo. Riding outside, it’s about putting enough layers on, and I will be okay."



Can you go outside the Belgian house without being recognised?


"Thankfully, I can! However I got recognised at the airport the other day, but I had all of my team kit on, which made it easier to spot me. So far going out and about is no problem at all. It probably will change in a few years."



What were your goals before the start of this cyclo-cross season?


"The European Championships. I'm happy to have achieved that one. Another one of my goals was to get an Elite World Cup podium, which I also achieved. Honestly, there wasn’t much else apart from the World Championships at the end of the season which will be a key goal for me. I am very much looking forward to that. Getting a good training block in before that will be good preparation. Other than that, I am just taking it as it comes and seeing what happens."



How did you feel before the start of those European Championships?


"I was pretty confident in my performance. The course was tailor made for me. I am not a climber, but there were a lot of climbs that needed power and that really suited me. It would have been a little bit more fun had there been some rain on the course as it was pretty dry."



In Dendermonde you took your first Elite World Cup podium. Did you surprise yourself that day?


"A little bit, yes. I wasn't expecting a podium, but I knew the course suited me. I won a junior World Cup race there in the past. However, the days before the race I felt sick. That's why it was a little bit of a surprise. I even hesitated about starting the race. One hour before the start I was on the phone with my coach asking him if I should actually be racing. We came down to the decision that either I was going to do awful and pull out after a lap or I would be doing extremely well. Luckily the latter was what happened."



For the World Championships in Tabor will you ride in the U23 or Elite category?


"I am 99% sure I will be riding at the U23 level. It obviously is my second year doing it so there is really no point in me going up to the Elite category already. I don’t think I can win the Elites yet as I think I would have a big fight for a top-5 finish. There is a better chance that I could either win or get second in the U23 category, so I would like to get the title there before I move up."


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Let's talk about your career on the road as well. In 2022 you signed your first WorldTour contract at EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. Why did you choose that team?


"I had a call with the boss, Linda Jackson, and I really enjoyed the vibe. Afterwards I told my agent I wanted to sign for them and that was pretty much that."



Your sister is riding for Lidl-Trek. Did she try to convince you to join her team?


"Obviously she said all of the good things about her team, but I didn't really want to be on the same team as my sister during my first year as a pro. That way I would be able to find my way in the new team myself and learn how it is to be part of a big team. There were definitely talks about maybe being teammates, but we came down to the decision that it was best for both of us if that didn't happen."



How special is it to share a team with your dad?


"I really enjoy it. It's not something that you see that often, a daughter being in the same team as her father, but it's great fun. It's like growing up again. My dad has a lot of stories to tell about his career and I enjoy listening to it. Obviously he gives some good tips as well."



Do you have the feeling there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders?


"No not really. I go into these road races knowing that I am only a first-year pro, next year second. There is no pressure to do well. I just need to learn and to do that I need to make mistakes in order to do it better the next time. Obviously, I put a little bit of pressure on myself to do well in certain races but from the outside I don’t feel it. My current team is very good at keeping things chill."



In 2022 you won the Tour of Flanders Youth Day as a Junior. How important are such Youth Days for the evolution of women's cycling?


"Really important. Tour of Flanders was pretty cool as a Junior. We got to do a few of the roads we did in the Elite race this year. It's quite important going from the Junior category into the pro ranks that you kind of know the roads a little bit. It's just a super fun race. I really enjoyed it."



Do you have a favourite climb in Flanders?


"I'm not really a fan of any of the climbs. I like the flat. I don't have a favourite one. They all hit my legs just as much as each other. I try to avoid them on training."



This year you had your first classics campaign in the pro peloton. What was that like?


"It was really great fun, I enjoyed it. I went straight from the cyclo-cross season into the classics season, so I had form at the start of it but burned out towards the end. I was just waiting for it to be over. I had some good races and bad ones, but my team was always there to support me. Alison Jackson was my roomie during most of the Classics. She's a lot of fun, so I had a great time with her. I learned a lot as well."



In September you joined Canyon//SRAM Racing. What was the reason for transferring at a surprising time of year?


"I wanted to start the cyclo-cross season and finish it with the same team as EF Education-TIBCO-SVB is folding at the end of the year. I didn’t want to do half the season and just switch half way through and have to change the bikes, equipment and mechanics during the season."



Will your road season become a bigger goal in the coming years?


"I may end up cutting my cyclo-cross season a little bit as there are a lot of World Cup races, meaning it is a very long season. With this I would focus a little bit more on the roadside of things but for sure I still want to do cyclo-cross as it is something I love. I don’t think I could do a whole winter of pure road training. I need a little bit of racing and mud too."



You rode a very strong individual time trial at Simac Ladies Tour this season. Is it something you want do develop even more in the future?


"Absolutely! World Championships, European Championships, Olympics ITT. They're all amazing. It's something for the future. It would be incredible if I can go to the Olympics next year in Paris, but there are a lot of strong girls in Team Great-Britain fighting for a spot. It's going to be tough, but I've always enjoyed time trialing. In a way it's kind of similar to cyclo-cross. You just go full gas. I'll continue to work on it."



Watch the full episode of Cross is Boss with Zoe Bäckstedt below:



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