Teenage Welsh cyclist Elynor Backstedt will not forget 2020 in a hurry

Elynor Backstedt
Elynor Backstedt has chosen road cycling over track events

Elynor Backstedt is unlikely to forget her first year as a professional cyclist.

The 18-year-old left her home in Wales to pursue her dream of hitting the heights on the professional women's circuit with the Trek-Segafredo team.

But two races into her new life, the Pontyclun-bred daughter of two top-flight cyclists is locked down in Belgium and craving the days when she again has the freedom of the road.

"It is really weird, since I was a kid I have always raced at this time of year so to have it all stop is crazy," she said.

"I struggle sometimes with knowing what to do with myself without races but health is most important at this time and bike racing is second, but it is tough.

"I have only had two races this year but I was just getting to know the girls and learn how they race before everything was cancelled.

"We will get back into things when the racing starts but it is sad to hear the stories from riders all over the world who are locked down."

Koppenberg motivation

The coronavirus pandemic has left Backstedt staring out of her window overlooking the route of the legendary Tour of Flanders.

Seeing the cobbles and peak of the infamous Koppenberg, provides motivation for her and partner Charley Calvert, also a pro-cyclist.

"In Belgium we are allowed outside for physical activity and to go to the shop, everyone has taken it pretty well.

"There are a lot of cyclists in Belgium and lots of people cycle everyday but it is a lot more bare out there than usual.

"We live 2km away from Koppenberg but you can see it from our window, it means everyday when we wake up we have that motivation.

"You do just want to go out and ride as hard as you can because it is the routes you have watched growing up, but sometimes we need to take a step back and chill."

Fatherly guidance

Magnus Backstedt
Elynor's father Magnus Backstedt is a former professional cyclist

Backstedt says the upheaval of moving abroad was not a decision made lightly.

But choosing Belgium over anywhere in southern Europe was made easier by tips from her Swedish father Magnus, a former professional who lived there during a career that included winning the 2004 Paris-Roubaix and a stage of the Tour de France.

Magnus and wife Megan (nee Hughes), a former British champion, are home in Wales.

"It was a big decision, I am only 18 now, so it is a bit early to be moving to another country but my boyfriend's team are based here," she said.

"We looked at a few places in Belgium and my dad said it is the place to be, it was a big decision but we are happy here.

"It is like Welsh weather here, it rains and it is cold but I love it here. We have actually had good weather since we moved into our new place."

Backstedt's experience in the 2019 Tour of Yorkshire helped persuade her that road cycling should be her priority over track cycling, in which she has also shone while rising up the sport's junior ranks.

"It was a big decision, I was not sure what I preferred, and the fact I was getting results in both didn't help my decision," said Backstedt.

"I had a lot of sleepless nights deciding, but the deciding race was the Tour of Yorkshire last year and that is not an opportunity everyone gets.

"It was the hardest race of my life and it was the hardest conditions I have ever ridden in but I loved every minute of it and I think something switched in my mind that that was the job I wanted."

Such a choice may also face Backstedt's sister Zoe in future years - the 16-year-old won the Gent-Wevelgem under-17 race in 2019 while Elynor was winning the under-19 event.