Elynor Backstedt: Welsh rider recalls traumatic leg-break accident

By Chloe DellBBC Sport Wales
Elynor Backstedt
Elynor Backstedt won bronze at the Road World Championships junior time trial event in 2019

Elynor Backstedt knew straight away the damage she had caused herself. Cyclists often do after a significant crash.

"I heard the crack and I was like 'that's not a stick, I knew in my gut that, this is bad," she said.

"When the pain started to come through I was immediately like 'yeah, it's broken'."

It was meant to have been a routine ride for the 18-year-old Welsh rider who is in her first year as a professional cyclist with the Trek-Segafredo team.

But a mountain biking trip in May with her father and sister going down a hill in south Wales ended in a broken leg.

"I wanted to switch up my training a little bit because of lockdown you end up doing the same thing," she told BBC Sport Wales.

"I've been out mountain biking quite a lot before this happened.

"We were coming down into the car park, the hill was pretty steep, but nothing too out of my comfort zone.

"It wasn't very rocky or anything, the ground was quite loose where it had been dry the last couple of weeks.

"My front wheel slipped out on the mud, I unclipped my foot and put my foot down on the floor, as I did so I fell onto my leg and I heard a crack.

"I hit the floor and just said to my dad 'I've just broken my leg'."

That was not the end of the drama. Vehicles were unable to reach Backstedt so the emergency services came up with stretchers and a mountain rescue team were called to help.

Helping the paramedics locate where the family were proved a challenge as they did not have an exact postcode so used a navigation app to help find them.

"I couldn't move my leg. My dad had to hold himself in a squat position holding my leg until the ambulance service came because we were stuck halfway down this mountain," said Backstedt.

"I was crying hysterically out of frustration, sadness and the pain. This is the most painful bone I've ever broken and I've broken a lot of bones.

"I had to be on a lot of pain killers when they got there because just one millimetre of movement and it was excruciating pain. It was very traumatic but we did OK."

The decision was made not to have surgery as it could cause a lot of knee pain afterwards.

"Being a cyclist knee pain is not a good thing to have so they said if it was like extremely necessary then they would do it," she said.

"Everyone I've spoken to seems to be really happy with how the X-rays look and how it's sitting so, so far, no surgery."

Elynor's father Magnus Backstedt is a former professional cyclist who won the 2004 Paris-Roubaix
Elynor's father Magnus Backstedt is a former professional cyclist who won the 2004 Paris-Roubaix

The recovery time is about three months for the injury Backstedt sustained.

"We're not too sure about how long until I get on a bike. At the moment we're just seeing it every week. I'm going back to the hospital once a week to get X-rays," she said.

"I have to go from this full cast to one that goes below the knee at some point so I think we'll know more when it gets to that stage.

"In general for a break like this it's around three months. Whether that's getting on the bike or healing we don't know yet, but we're just trying to do everything we can to make it heal quickly but properly."

Backstedt had moved to Belgium to help her training, encouraged by her Swedish father Magnus, a former professional who lived there during a career that included winning a Tour de France stage.

However, as lockdown went on she decided to return to Wales to be with her family.

"We came home. I was just really missing my family and being home - it's my first time living away," Backstedt said.

"I hadn't seen my family for the longest I've ever gone without seeing them, so for me that was really difficult.

"So we decided to come back. When we travelled we didn't get out of the car once all the way, which made us feel safe at least."

Backstedt had hoped to return to Belgium when it was safe to travel again.

However, the injury means this might not be possible.

"We weren't too sure how long we would be here for, but now this has happened we're even more in the unknown of when we're going to go back," she said.

"At the moment I can't go for trips longer than 20 minutes because it is so painful. All the bumps and vibrations in the car is just really difficult.

"I hope to be back at some point this season, but the team have said just don't rush it, you're still young and we'd much rather you get things fixed properly than it be weak and happen again."