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Zoe Bäckstedt succeeds Puck Pieterse as European U23 cyclocross champion

British hopeful Zoe Bäckstedt has claimed the European title in the women’s under-23 category. Demonstrating her prowess early in the race, Bäckstedt broke away from her rivals in the second lap, carving a path to victory with an air of certainty. Marie Schreiber of Luxembourg secured the silver medal, while the Czech Republic’s Krystýna Zemanová edged out Dutch competitor Leonie Bentveld for the bronze.

A contingent of twenty-six competitors vied for the European stars jersey in the under-23 women’s category, including five Belgians. However, it became apparent after the first lap that the Belgian riders were not quite in contention with the global elite. Bäckstedt and Schreiber took a significant lead, with Bentveld trailing solo four seconds behind. The Belgian contingent was primarily clustered around the tenth position, with Lore De Schepper, Van Sinaey, and Brouwers vying for placement.

Bäckstedt and Schreiber were already setting the pace, creating a gap from the rest of the pack. Bentveld and Zemanová kept chase, working together to keep up with the leading pair. It took just one robust push on the pedals in the third lap for Bäckstedt to decisively break away from Schreiber. The British talent started her solitary journey to victory well before the midpoint of the race, establishing a 25-second lead over the Luxembourger in one lap.

The Brit’s command was never truly threatened as she approached the final lap with a consistent half-minute advantage over Schreiber. Zemanová, having distanced herself from Bentveld, trailed by 1m20s, seemingly solidifying the standings for the bronze medal as well. Despite recent stormy weather, the course at Pontchâteau presented less of a challenge than expected. This factor led to a cautious approach from both Bäckstedt and Schreiber.

Xaydee van Sinaey in the mud
Xaydee van Sinaey in the mud
Photo Credit: BELGA

Crossing the finish line, Bäckstedt’s position was undisputed, allowing her to celebrate a clear-cut triumph. Schreiber completed the race unchallenged for silver, with Zemanová completing the podium. Just last year, Bäckstedt finished fifth behind Schreiber, but today the tables have turned. It was a reminiscent victory, harking back to her triumph in the European juniors two years prior.

Dutch riders Bentveld and Lauren Molengraaf finished in fourth and fifth places respectively, while Xaydee Van Sinaey achieved the title of best Belgian, coming in seventh. Julie Brouwers also performed commendably, securing eighth place.

2023 Cyclocross European Championship Women U23 result

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Main photo credit: Cor Vos