Zoe Bäckstedt signs with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB
The Welsh rider will race both road and cyclocross with the team
EF Education-TIBCO-SVB are thrilled to announce that Zoe Bäckstedt has signed with the team, stepping up from originally joining as a trainee. The Welsh rider will race with the team for both road and cyclocross.
Though only 17-years-old, Zoe’s cycling career has been well established for quite some time. She is the current junior world champion in both road and cyclocross. It certainly doesn't hurt that her parents and older sister have all raced professionally.
“My dad [Magnus Bäckstedt] won Paris-Roubaix so for as long as I can remember, he’s ridden a bike. My mum [Megan Hughes] was the British national champion in the road race and has a track bronze medal in the sprint as a junior. My sister has Worlds medals and now rides in the WorldTour. Cycling is in my blood.”
But Zoe’s career as a professional cyclist was not a foregone conclusion.
“It took me a couple of years to get into it, meaning I really hated cycling until I was about 10. And now I love it to bits. I absolutely love it.”
In fact it was Zoe’s insatiable competitive streak that nudged her into the sport.
“My dad always says that when I was little, I used to always go down to the local velodrome when my sister was training and I’d be like, ‘Ugh, I don’t want to ride.’ But he’d take my bike anyway. I’d see someone my age riding around the track and I’d say, ‘Dad! Dad! I want my bike!’ He’d go and get it and then basically I’d jump on the bike, sprint one lap, make sure I passed them, get off the bike, and then stand on the side for the next half an hour. As long as I caught that person, I was happy.”
The days of needing external motivation to ride are long gone for Zoe.
“It gives me a lot of freedom, riding. It gives me that bit of space to do what I’m doing. I always try to go out with my sister Elynor or I’ve got one particular friend I’m really close to at home that also rides. She and I can go out for five hours on the bike and we won’t stop talking the whole time. I come back with a sore face from laughing with her.”
For Zoe, close friends and family are an essential part of life.
“It’s just been nice to have the support from everyone, my grandparents, my cousins and all that. For me and for my older sister, they just support us so much. They’re all just happy to see us enjoying what we’re doing,” Zoe said.
Part of the reason she decided to sign with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB was that it offered her the space to be herself and that familiar supportive environment she appreciates so much from her loved ones.
“I spoke with a couple of other teams. I had a Zoom call with Linda, the team owner. Just the way I was speaking with her, the way she was speaking with me, how we got along, it seemed to work. I went downstairs after that call and I said to my dad, ‘That’s my team. I want to sign for them.’ Just the whole vibe was what I wanted. Linda let me be myself, she was herself. I think we clicked a little bit then. I felt good, I felt confident. I looked at some of the riders on the team already. The likes of Abi Smith, I already knew. Lizzy Banks, too. I know a couple of people within the team already so it's nice to know that if I find it a little bit hard the first couple of times, I still have someone I can talk to that I know already that can help me out.”
The luxury to race both cyclocross and on the road under one team was another reason she found EF Education-TIBCO-SVB so appealing.
“It makes life a heck of a lot easier if I’m being honest than racing for two teams because then you get the problem of being pulled in one direction for a road training camp but you get pulled into the cyclocross season and then nothing tends to coordinate. But with EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, I can do road and then I can switch to cross and do cross for as long as I want to, as many races as I want to and then I can take a break and go back onto the road. That approach of ‘you do what you want to do and we’ll make it work.’ I get to do a full cross season like I want to and I get to race on the road like I want to.”
"I am just delighted to announce that we have signed Zoe Backstedt,” said Linda Jackson, founder and owner of EF Education-TIBCO-SVB. “Zoe is an incredible up and coming talent in both road and cross and I believe that we will provide a great home for her across both disciplines. Spotting new talent has always been our strength, but the addition of EF Education First as a co-title partner now enables us to provide the infrastructure and support that riders like Zoe need to progress into top elite level riders. We have been working on a CX program for Clara Honsinger, so the addition of Zoe to this effort was a natural fit. Our goal is to provide Zoe with the supportive environment that she needs as she steps up to the elite level.”
Building a successful team involves more than just signing strong riders. It’s important that a rider is a good fit for the team’s culture and that teammates get along both on and off the bike.
“From my first conversation with Zoe, I knew she would be a great addition to the team,” said Linda. “She’s obviously very talented, but she is also very down to earth and has a warm, engaging personality. She has already blended into the team really well and was an incredible teammate alongside Clara and the rest of the team in the defense of the yellow jersey in the recent CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées. She has already been given an affectionate nickname on the squad, and we are all really looking forward to the future with her."
Over the weekend, Zoe met five of her new teammates and had her first race with the team at the CIC-Tour Féminin International des Pyrénées. Zoe’s debut was a smashing success. The team came away with the overall win and three stage wins, including the team time trial which earned Zoe the best young rider’s jersey.
“It was really a pleasure having her around for her first race,” said sport director Daniel Foder. “She fit in together with the team. Racing-wise, she has a lot of experience, maybe not yet as a senior rider, but she has a really good idea of what to do on the bike and when to do it. It already seems like she’s been on the team for the whole year. It was all really positive for the race and also for the future.”
Zoe was equally enthusiastic about her first racing experience with the team.
“I loved the environment of this first race. The atmosphere was really good. Everyone was having a good time and it just made it a lot easier for me to just settle in. Going to dinner that first night, being with everyone, traveling with everyone on the bus to the race, it’s all part of the experience and I really enjoyed it.”
We can’t wait to see Zoe on the road in pink again and for the cyclocross season to get underway. Join us in welcoming Zoe to the team!