Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig: "Here we are!"
September 27 th 2021 - 11:41
Aware of the importance of this momentous occasion, the female peloton is gearing up for the first edition of Paris–Roubaix Femmes, scheduled for Saturday 2 October, after their debut on the cobblestones of northern France was frustrated in October 2020 and again last spring. The world of cycling is awash with questions about the favourites to win the inaugural edition, wondering what it takes to shine in this race and whether the decisive attributes are exactly the same as in the men's competition. Five of these favourites, particularly excited about this momentous event, tell us more about their relationship with the Queen of Classics as the countdown to their initiation on the cobblestones ticks away. For the Dane Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, racing in the Hell of the North will be a childhood dream come true.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine-Futuroscope)
Frederiksberg (Denmark), 23 August 1995
Teams: Rytger (2014–2015), BMS BIRN (2016), Cervélo–Bigla (2017–2019) and FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope (since 2020)
2012: silver medallist in the World Junior Time Trial Championships
2016: silver medallist in the European U23 Road Race Championships
2017: winner of the UCI World Tour youth classification, third in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, ninth in Strade Bianche and tenth in the World Championships
2018: fourth in La Course by Le Tour de France, sixth in the Giro d'Italia and seventh in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda
2019: third in the Tour of Flanders, third in La Course by Le Tour de France, third in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, fifth in Strade Bianche and winner of the Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan
2020: second in the Flèche Wallonne, fourth in the Giro d'Italia, eighth in the World Championships and winner of the Giro dell'Emilia
2021: second in La Course by Le Tour de France, third in the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, fifth in Strade Bianche and winner of stage 3 of the Vuelta a Burgos
An anecdote: a total extrovert who basks in the media glow, she might well have become an actor if she had not been a cyclist. "Once I'm done with cycling, perhaps. Who knows?"
A DREAM IS BORN
At the tender age of 10, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig already used to put Paris–Roubaix at the top of her list of races to watch on television. "The hype was real. The approach to the Trouée d'Arenberg is something I'll never forget. It was so brutal, so epic, that I would just go crazy when the peloton got there." She eventually came to the Arenberg Forest at the dawn of her pro career, six years ago, just for the fun of racing up and down those same cobblestones that she had dreamed about time and again. "It was really special. I thought to myself: 'Oh, my God, I've seen this on television so many times before'! And now my turn had come. I remember thinking: 'some day, maybe, there'll be a Paris–Roubaix for me too". And here we are!"
CUT OUT FOR THE COBBLESTONES?
While Paris–Roubaix is a race like no other, strong performances in the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche are a reliable indicator of a rider's ability to do well here. This suits Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, who finished third in De Ronde in 2019 and fifth in the Tuscan race on two occasions (2019 and 2021). However, the 26-year-old climber concedes that a small rider like her (52 kg) seems a bit out of place in the Hell of the North. "There's no denying that the men who do well in Roubaix are big and strong and crank out some serious wattage. True, I'm nothing like that! But I hope I'll still be able to produce enough watts and, even more importantly, to be astute enough. In a race like this, you need to stay at the front and be well positioned at the entrance to each sector." Since there has never been a Paris–Roubaix Femmes before, the type of riders who will have an edge over the others is still shrouded in uncertainty. "It's our very first time, so we have no clue how this is going to play out! Thin cyclist, big cyclist, power riders, climbers… Everyone thinks they have a shot at winning, and this is what makes the inaugural edition so special."
PREPARING FOR THE BIG SHAKE
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is gripped by a mix of fear and excitement at the prospect of tackling the cobblestones. "A bit of both! The Roubaix cobblestones are completely different from the ones in Flanders. I've seen pictures of riders who finished with their hands covered in blisters. I can't imagine how much that must hurt, so I expect to suffer a lot. But I can't wait to start!" The FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope leader was unable to take part in her team's training camp in the cobbled sectors last year. "I haven't done any recon this year either. But after the road race of the Worlds (Saturday 25 September), I'll spend the whole week in the area. I'll take the opportunity to recon every sector, prepare as well as I can and find the right tyre pressure for the big day." In order to gear up for the event and get an idea of the nuances of the cobblestones, she admits that she turned to the "Danish Mafia", the community of Danish riders, including former world champion Mads Pedersen, who just like her lives in Girona, Spain.
THE IDEAL SCENARIO
Scandinavians love it when the weather can change at the drop of a hat, and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is no exception. However, she is crossing her fingers for sunny skies on 2 October. "The course is tough enough as it is. If you add rain into the mix… I want to see a battle in which the best riders go head to head, not one in which the winner is simply the one who manages to stay on her bike." She hopes that the race will be decided by a long-range attack. "But I think many others would agree. Everyone will be ready to fight and vying for the leading places in the approach to the sectors. I think it's going to be really tough… But this is how I want cycling to be. To be honest, I have no idea what to expect! A top 10 finish, a podium place… More than anything else, I hope to be able to cross the finish line knowing I've got nothing left in the tank. Whoever wins this Paris–Roubaix will go down in history. Everyone's dreaming of being that person."
Previous stories, to be discovered or read again:
. Audrey Cordon-Ragot: "A race where cycling history is made" (I/V)
. Chantal van den Broek-Blaak: “You can’t compare Roubaix with any other race” (II/V)
. Elisa Longo Borghini : “I’m not afraid of the cobblestones” (III/V)