Van Dijk, Bäckstedt show how to make a successful comeback


Ellen Van Dijk and Elynor Bäckstedt finish 1-2 in the Lotto Belgium Tour prologue

Two cyclists on the comeback trail, Ellen van Dijk – after dealing with the Covid-19 virus in the spring – and Elynor Bäckstedt – who suffered a broken leg last year that eliminated her 2020 season – finished one-two in the Stage 1 prologue in the Lotto Belgium Tour.

Van Dijk came into the prologue as a favourite for the win, but the time trial specialist has not been back to her top form since recovering from Covid-19.  Today was a step in the right direction for van Dijk.

“I am very happy to win this prologue,” said van Dijk. “It’s nice for my morale after a long period with shit form – I have not had good form for a while, so it’s nice to gain a win here. It was just a nice one – for me and the team!”

For 19-year-old Bäckstedt it was her first breakthrough result and it was made especially sweet after a lengthy recovery from a fractured tibia suffered in a training accident in May of 2020.  It also was a huge surprise.

“I am absolutely gobsmacked about today to be honest,” said Bäckstedt. “I did not even know that I had made the podium! Ina was screaming at me in the car and I had no idea until I got onto the bus and everyone was celebrating with me. It was just such an incredible moment. I have gone through a lot recently and… I am so lost for words!

“Obviously last year was a really difficult year for me breaking my leg in my first season with the team and taking so long to comeback from it. So to be on the podium today was absolutely incredible. I am so happy, the team was so supportive, and it was also nice to be on the podium with Ellen too, and seeing her be back on top form after having Covid. Yeah, just the best day!”

It was a typical wet and chilly Belgian day in Chimay, but the wet roads were not a factor in a non-technical circuit course suited to the powerhouse specialists.

“It was very wet, but the course was straightforward; there was only one corner where you couldn’t go full,” explained van Dijk. “It was a nice course; I liked it. The first part was uphill, the second downhill. It was a good course for me, and when I started, I wanted to go for a top result. Time trials never feel great; I felt I couldn’t really push enough during the ride. But it was enough in the end, so I am super happy with that.”

Van Dijk stopped the clock in 5 minutes and 33 seconds.  It was a time that easily held up, that is until her teammate came flying across the finish.

The 19-year-old Bäckstedt, one of the last to start the 4.4-kilometer race against the clock, put in a phenomenal performance finishing only two seconds slower.

“It’s also great to see Elynor getting second. It was a surprise for herself, and I think for most,” added van Dijk. “We know that she has a lot of talent, and it was really cool to see her so close to [my time].

“Ina (Teutenberg, director) joked with her, ‘You just beat your teammate,’ but she never thought that it was for 2nd overall.  It was really cool to see, and now we are 1-2 in the GC. On to the next days!”

Van Dijk takes the red leader’s jersey into the second day while Bäckstedt holds the young rider and points jerseys.