It was smiles all round for the Great Britain Cycling Team on the first day of the 2023 UEC Road European Championships, with European titles won in the individual time-trials by Zoe Backstedt and Josh Tarling, as well as a silver medal for Anna Henderson.
In her first time competing on the road in the under-23 category, last year’s four-time junior world champion Zoe Backstedt made her mark, kicking off the European Championship with the first win of the event for the Great Britain team.
The 18-year-old rode a cool, calm and collected race, immediately taking the lead in the first split at 9.8km with the fastest time of 11:23.84. With 17 riders to go, Backstedt had to set a strong pace to keep off the competition, and that she did, hitting the second checkpoint in 16:09.55.
Completing the course in a time of 24:25.89, almost a minute ahead of Germany’s Antonia Niedermaier, Backstedt waited patiently in the hot seat to find out the outcome. As the final rider crossed the second checkpoint, it was clear that no one was going to challenge her lead, and she took her first under-23 European title in the women’s time-trial.
Josh Tarling stormed to his first elite title in the men’s time-trial, beating his closest rival Steffan Bissegger by a phenomenal 42.91 seconds. Going into the event as the favourite, the 19-year-old started conservatively, taking the fastest time at the first checkpoint, four seconds ahead of next fastest Wout Van Aert.
Tarling clearly kept some reserves for the second half of the 29.5km course, sailing round the technical sections and slowly putting more time into Van Aert, leading by 28 seconds as he rode through the second checkpoint.
Maintaining focus and fully committing, Tarling secured his place at the top of the podium, taking the European title in his first year out of the junior ranks with a time of 31:30.01, proving his mettle as one of the world’s best time-triallists.
After the win, Tarling commented, "It was hard, the wind had changed to be crosswinds both ways. There wasn't really a section to go easy, it was just about holding a high power all the way through the race. And just hanging on. This one hurt a lot more than the worlds, but super happy I think it went ok.
"I have such a good team around me and everyone puts 100% in. The pressure is from myself, everyone else does so much for me that it takes all the outside pressure off. Any pressure I have is put on by myself and I think we've nailed it so I'm super happy.
"I try my best every time and we work really well together, me and my coach, and British Cycling throw everything at it so thank you to everyone - I couldn't do it without the people around me."
Great Britain’s success continued in the elite women’s time-trial as Anna Henderson took an impressive silver medal, with a time of 36:36.89 over the 29.5km course. Henderson rode a classy time-trial, showing control and consistency to come through each time check in third place. Having taken an impressive fourth place in the recent world championships, a final push with just over 5km secured Henderson’s place on the podium as she rode her way to a European silver medal.
Teammate Elinor Barker also delivered a strong ride, completing the course in a time of 37:05.13 to gain herself a place in the top 10 in ninth position.
Great Britain will next race on Friday 22 September, when Anna Shackley, Millie Couzens, Flora Perkins, Alice Towers, Zoe Backstedt and Elynor Backstedt will compete for the under-23 women’s road race title.