Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig officially began her third season with FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope in Spain at its first training camp for 2022. The Dane has become a leader of the French team, from taking the reigns for her first Women’s WorldTour event last year to radiating positivity about the growth of the team for the new year.
While there are a trio of spring Classics on her radar, the “huge goal” for the team would come July 24-31 at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
“It doesn’t get much bigger for a French team to ride the Tour de France. I am crazy excited, kind of mind blowing,” Uttrup Ludwig told Cycling News from camp.
She had a third-place finish at the 2019 La Course by Le Tour de France when part of the Bigla Pro Racing team, then advanced to second place this past season with FDJ. The 2021 course, 107.4 kilometres with a finish line atop the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups in Landerneau, suited Uttrup Ludwig, who is always aggressive and likes to climb. But eight days of stage racing in France at a women’s Tour is indeed a jewel for any resume, but especially a French squad.
“The amount of exposure is just enormous. We got a little taste of it with Paris-Roubaix for women this year. The exposure there, interest from French television was huge. So I think it’s going to be very big, it will lift women’s cycling. It’s a huge goal for the team,” she added.
With holidays approaching and the first spring races still months away, Uttrup Ludwig said she was excited for next season, especially with the addition of two new riders, Vittoria Gauzzini and Grace Brown.
“This team is progressing year by year. It will be super exciting to race with them and especially having Grace in the finals. I think that gives us more cards to play. I’m excited to try and play that game, because now teams like Trek and SD Worx, teams like that, they have a lot of cards. So into the finals, they can attack, counter-attack. So I hope that next year that will be what we can do as well. And [as a team] we will attack, I promise you that,” she said.
“It’s always exciting to watch the young French girls and how they develop. A special thing for this team and something they have in their DNA, they want to develop the French riders and it’s significant to see. You can see a girl like Évita [Muzic], who has just grown and grown and grown and now winning the French championship and being there in races where it is hard. It’s La Course, it’s the Giro, she is there.
“Yeah, from starting with the team three years ago, it’s always fun to watch their career and how they progress. That’s really cool. And I feel old saying that.”
She added that she wanted to lead by example and enjoyed the fight to be on the podium, working to make the top step more often.
“My vision of me racing is by attacking, be thrilling, powerful, be exciting. ‘What is she going to do? When is she going to attack?’ That’s how I want to be myself, at least. ”
Races on radar
The all-rounder began the 2021 campaign with a victory on stage 3 of Vuelta a Burgos Feminas, her first Women’s WorldTour victory, and also raced at the Tokyo Olympic Games for Denmark later in the summer, placing 10th in the road race. While the La Course podium was huge, she only had the one win last season and that accounted for half of the team’s take for the year.
“It’s not happening too often [this year], but I try,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “I want to win them all!”
She was always aggressive and racked up 11 additional top 10s in the season, including a fifth place at Strade Bianche, one of her favourite races.
“Races that have a special place in my heart will always be Strade Bianche and Flanders and Fleche [Wallonne]. They are three races that I’m crazy excited to be on the start line. And before I stop my cycling career, it would be the dream to have won them, yeah [at least] once.”
She could not confirm if the GC at the Tour would be her target, or if she would work with teammates for stage wins. Even team director Stephen Delcourt was a bit elusive.
“We will line up the best possible team for the Tour de France Femme. Our goal will be to shine on our home ground and to play a leading role in the general classification but also on each stage. We have several cards in the squad to shine,” Delcourt told Cycling News.
Tour de France Femmes will cover 1,029 kilometres with a start on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and end with back-to-back mountain stages, the final one the overall finish atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles.
“There is something for everyone. There’s flat stages, there’s punchy stages, and there are real mountain stages, so I think it has everything. It even has gravel. The only thing it is missing is a time trial, but with time I think they’ll put a time trial or team time trial in there,” she said.
Did she foresee a huge weight on her shoulders to lead the team? “Not especially. I put a lot of pressure on my own shoulders. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I mean of course there will be a lot of people looking at us, FDJ, but there’s also a lot of other strong teams lining up at the Tour. So, I don’t feel it’s especially hard because it is also my wish to do well in the Tour.”