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‘Now we are making history’: Q&A with Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig

23 May 2022

FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope’s Danish star talks recovering from Covid, her hopes for the Tour de France Femmes and her excitement at a Grand Départ in her home city 

Cyclist: Covid took away most of your Classics campaign, but how are you feeling now?

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig: I’m getting better, but it has been a rollercoaster. I had a fever with coughing and took ten days off the bike. What was frustrating was I started to build up slowly and did a couple of interval sessions, thinking I could make Flêche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

I was positive and happy, then it was right back to feeling bad again and I couldn’t get out of bed. It was a hard decision to pull the plug on the Ardennes Classics, but seeing Marta [Cavalli] win helped overcome the disappointment. 

Cyc: How important is it for you to have the Tour de France Femmes?

CUL: Well, we’ve been fighting for this for a long time and now we are making history. Everyone knows the Tour. When you say you are a cyclist people ask, ‘Do you do the Tour de France?’ And now we can say, ‘Yes we do.’ I can tell my children or grandchildren that I was among the first women to be part of this Tour.

Being on a French team in the Tour will be a huge circus, but I’m excited for it. It’s crazy that the men’s Tour is starting in Copenhagen, my home city. People are saying, ‘Oh my God, the Tour is coming!’ Hopefully in the years to come the women’s race can start in Denmark too.

Cyc: Which stage are you looking forward to most?

CUL: The gravel stage. It’s a bit punchy and challenging and I think many people would dream about winning that stage, the same as everyone would like to win Strade Bianche.

There is also the Epernay stage that ends with a 1km climb, and the two last stages in the mountains, including the Super Planche des Belles Filles, will be epic. Starting on the Champs-Élysées is also going to be cool, as even though La Course was there I’ve never raced on it.

Cyc: What other races are you looking forward to this season?

CUL: Well, I’m so excited about the Tour of Scandinavia because it starts in Copenhagen. I can have my parents, my brother, my grandparents watching so it’s going to be super-special. It’s funny because if you look back on Instagram and Facebook from August 2018 I wrote a post that said, ‘I’m dreaming about a Tour of Scandinavia, like actually riding in my home country.’ And now it’s happening. It’s a dream come true.

Cyc: How important was it for you to get your first win at the Tour of Burgos last year?

CUL: It was a big relief, as I felt for a long time that I was so close. Winning makes me hungry to do more this year. I really want to win the Tour de France – not specifically stages, but the GC. 

Cyc: How do you deal with setbacks?

CUL: If you’re not there in the sprint it can be super-disappointing, especially if you have the whole team working for you. Even though it’s hard to go away with a defeat the instinct should be, ‘I’ve learned from my mistakes and I want to come back stronger.’

There’s no recipe to being happy when having a bad day. Sometimes you have to kick yourself in the butt and bite the sour apple and deal with it. Life isn’t always cake and fun. There must be bad times to make the good times better.

Of course bike racing is a tough job, and there are rainy days and days where you just want to lie on the couch and watch Netflix.

But I feel the things that cycling gives me means that, on balance, it’s so overwhelmingly positive rather than negative.

Cyc: What’s the atmosphere like in FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope?

CUL: I like that as a team we can attack and counterattack. There are a lot of teams with strong cards, but now having more cards, especially since Grace Brown and Vittoria Guazzini joined this year, means that we can play that game too. We’ve been developing year by year and it’s paying off. Before I was often alone in the final sprints, but now we have multiple riders there.

Everyone is just in awe of what Marta’s doing, she’s really flying. We have different personalities in our team – people would point at me as the joker! I think Maëlle Grossetête and Vittoria are a bit like that too. Stine Borgli has a nine-year old son, so she’s like a mother hen looking out for us.

Cyc: What’s the key to your success?

CUL: Having a supportive family has been important. When I was younger we would all get up at 4am to get to a race. My mum would prepare the food and my dad would drive us, sometimes for three hours just to do a little club race for an hour. I’m also incredibly determined. I worked in a supermarket to pay my way while I was looking for a pro contract. It was tough, but I’m now living the dream.

Cyc: And living in Girona. Why there?

CUL: There are lots of cyclists, so if you want to train with someone there’s always company. I live in the old part of the city with its narrow streets, which I Iove. Although I dream about winning a big WorldTour race, what I really enjoy is going out for a ride with a friend around the coast here. I love to ride in the sun, smell the air, see and hear the birds, and stop at a cafe for a bocadillo. It’s days like that where I can properly recharge my batteries and get fired up for racing.

Photopraphy: David Powell