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RONCHAMP, France (VN) – Although Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig couldn’t hide her disappointment at finishing seventh overall at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, the Danish rider leaves France with something far more empowering than a result: she now has a new dream.
“One year, or one day in my career I want to have the yellow jersey,” she said after the final day of the race. “If it’s not yet next year, then I’m doing everything the next year again. I will keep on pushing.”
Of course, on paper Uttrup Ludwig’s result doesn’t tell the whole story. Her FDJ-Suez Futuroscope squad came to the Tour with big ambitions and had two serious GC contenders in both the Dane and Italian Marta Cavalli.
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After Marta Cavalli had to withdraw after being injured in stage 2’s dramatic crash, the team suffered some momentary setbacks. But, the women recalibrated and clawed back.
“We had a really shit start to the Tour with the crash and losing time and Marta gone,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “But I think that we showed every single day that we fought. We’ve had quite a few podiums and a stage victory, most combative rider. And I think that all the girls have been fighting, and I think we can really be proud of how we fought back as a unit. And I’m actually pretty proud of that.”
The first act of defying the odds came on stage 3 when Uttrup Ludwig stormed to the win the day after the squad lost Cavalli. During stage 7’s incredibly brutal day in the mountains, she stayed in a strong sextet of riders all day, eventually out-sprinting all of them for third place.
The 25-year-old teared up as she acknowledged the support of her team behind her.
“The girls kept believing in me,” she said. “They were just so nice.”
Uttrup Ludwig also offered thanks to another indelible part of the inaugural Tour de France Femmes: the fans.
“Thank you so much! And thank you for all the people that cheered for me,” she said. “I heard my name so many times. My heart is melting when I’m riding up the climb, and I hear people screaming my name. And having the Danish flag so many places on the course. Yeah, makes me happy.”
Throughout the week, riders commented on how the spectator support exceeded expectations. In fact, when asked what she’d change about the next year’s race, Uttrup Ludwig didn’t have much to suggest except perhaps the addition of a time trial. Otherwise, she said, next year “should be mega. it will be so good. I just love the atmosphere of this race. So many spectators, the energy.”
While the effervescent Uttrup Ludwig didn’t finish the Tour de France Femmes quite as high in the results as she’d hoped, she did build up her stores of energy — with contributions from her team and fans.
“Yeah right now, I didn’t come to the Tour de France to get seventh, but on the other hand the fighting spirit and the mental strength that we showed, this is something we can take to the next races.”