Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig chases elusive WorldTour wins in 2021 with a fearless attitude

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig isn't afraid of the peloton's strongest riders, and that attitude could see her claim an elusive first WorldTour win.

Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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When Annemiek van Vleuten made her decisive move on the final, gravel climb inside the closing kilometers of the second stage at last year’s Giro Rosa, only one rider could hold her wheel.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig could be seen doggedly holding on, until she gradually drifted back, eventually finishing fourth, alone, 1.29 behind the winner.


Maybe even trying to follow van Vleuten was foolish, maybe she’d have been better off conserving her energy, but the move perfectly illustrated the 25-year-old’s ambition.

“At least I can try to go after her, and maybe I’ll fail, but if I work hard enough I know that some day, it might not be this year, if I keep trying someday I will freaking stick to that wheel. But I know that it’s not happening if I’m not trying,” Uttrup Ludwig told VeloNews. 

“Annemiek is definitely one of the best, if not the best rider that we have, but it seems to me that people are too afraid of her and too scared to go when she attacks, she has the mental overtake on them because she’s so good. I just — I don’t want to give that to anyone because if they have that they have already won.”

Last year was a good one for Uttrup Ludwig. Having joined FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope 12 months ago she collected ten top-10 finishes in just 21 days of racing, including fourth overall at the Giro Rosa, and eighth in the UCI world road race championships.

Winning the ProSeries level Giro dell’Emilia in August was the highest-ranked success of her career to date. Yet Uttrup Ludwig instead said that Flèche Wallonne, where she came back from a mechanical to finish second behind a rampant Anna van der Breggen, was her best performance of the season.

An effusive interview in Le Grand Bornand after finishing fourth at the 2018 La Course saw Uttrup Ludwig burst into the public consciousness in 2018. And though she is a regular top-10 in hard races, she is not a prolific winner, something that seems to be nagging at her after coming close so often.

“I’m not sitting and thinking ‘Wow, that’s such a great season,’ there were some good results, but also one of my main goals was I want to have that WorldTour victory and I didn’t achieve that this year, so that is still on the major wish list and in that sense I’m really looking forward to this year,” she said.

Perhaps her biggest regret was the Giro Rosa, where she finished only two seconds off the podium, and she was uncharacteristically downbeat when asked about it.

“I know that’s my best result but I’m still not satisfied because fourth place is always the first to nothing,” she said.

Despite the lack of regular wins her signing with FDJ is an inspired one for both parties. She performs and communicates well, and is also emblematic of the team’s progress. When we spoke the team was celebrating the opening of its new, €1m purpose-built service course near the western French city of Poitiers.

And while the Giro Rosa was another indication of her incremental improvement for the team it was an unqualified success, bringing as it did their best overall finish, but also their first WorldTour victory.

With Uttrup Ludwig looking to move onto the podium on the final stage, FDJ had Evita Muzic and Brodie Chapman in a huge breakaway, and though their Danish leader was unable to gain time, Music who won the day.

“I couldn’t do anything, but they [the team] worked so hard for me the whole stage race so it was good giving them the chance to go for their own successes,” she said.

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (left) at the start of stage three of the 2020 Giro Rosa. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

The victory, for one of the team’s French riders, was serendipitous in that the part of the team’s long-term strategy of internationalization. In 2015, there were no non-French women on the team. Since then, when FDJ arrived as lead sponsor, the numbers of foreigners in the team’s colors have increased year-on-year, with Uttrup Ludwig the highest-profile arrival.

“We are trying to have 50/50 French and international riders,” said team manager Stephen Delcourt. “And I think if we didn’t have a rider like Cecilie we would not win that race. The foreign riders teach them [the French] how every day you do the job of professional cycling, it’s not just a dream now, open your eyes and you win.”

The team may only have managed three wins last year, but the increased sponsor investment — which last year allowed the squad to become one of the first eight WorldTeams — has also allowed Delcourt to lift his sights.

“I won three times and I can’t stop now, I want to win every time my mission is not finished,” he said. “We have only one goal, it’s the same goal for all for staff, my riders, for my partners, it is the women’s Tour de France.

“When we decide to have another rider, to chose another bike, to choose another truck it’s always what is the best for the women’s Tour de France. We don’t say, ‘OK it’s good to participate in the women’s Tour de France,’ our goal is to go to the first women’s Tour de France and [to race] for the yellow jersey. I think about this every day of my life.”

Uttrup Ludwig may well be the one to achieve that goal for the team when the race appears in 2022. One only needs to see her around her team to know she is a natural leader, and each year she takes a step towards the top.

“I’d rather do something and go back and say that was stupid than sit back and do nothing if you fail and then you learn. I want to go out and I want to attack and be there, that’s the ’Cille way of racing,” she said.

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