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ÉPERNAY, France (VN) — After hitting the deck, losing time, and seeing her teammate crash out in a horrible incident the previous day, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig was back on top of the world with her win on stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift.
Monday was a disaster day for the FDJ-Suez Futuroscope squad with Marta Cavalli crashing out, followed shortly by a fall for Uttrup Ludwig, and a later spill for Evita Muzic. Uttrup Ludwig gave away over a minute to most of the GC contenders.
It was a tough hit to get her head around, but some pep-talks from her teammates ensured she was raring to go when the racing lit up over the Côte de Mutigny with about 26km to the line.
“It was a very mental fight today, trying to come back after such a shit day it was a long fight out on the course,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “That’s what makes it even more special because you can turn that around. I didn’t just do that myself, I had my teammates during the race coming to me multiple times to say to me that ‘we are here for you and we believe in you.’
“That means a lot for me, because it means that you have your teammates that believe in you. The last kilometer coming into the climb, I was thinking I’m now going to fight for a stage victory in the Tour de France. I thought, ‘I’m going to do that for you and for Marta.’ We bounced back, baby.”
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Despite abandoning the race, Cavalli has remained with the team for the coming days as she is kept under observation following the stage 2 crash. The Italian was with the team at the start in Reims and will be there to celebrate with the squad afterward.
“I haven’t been able to contact her because I haven’t had my phone, but we will be celebrating with her tonight because she’ll be in the hotel,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “We’ll have a glass of champagne with her and that’s going to be really special because at least we can do this for you Marta. It’ll be really good and I bet you she’s also really happy.”
Uttrup Ludwig found herself off the back of the group of favorites after a split was formed when Demi Vollering (SD Worx) and Liane Lippert (Team DSM) crashed going over the top of the Mutigny. With Vollering as well as yellow jersey Marianne Vos in the chase, Uttrup Ludwig was able get back to the leaders before long.
“Oh my god, we were coming in and it was full-gas,” Uttrup Ludwig explained. “Coming into the finish line, everyone wanted to be in front and then coming downhill it was full-gas, and then all the teams were lining up. Everyone wanted to be in the front because everyone knew that it was going to happen on that steep climb. We were fighting for position and Vittoria [Guazzini] was dying for me. In the last corner, I was behind Kasia [Niewiadoma], and then they crashed, and I was like ‘shit’ and then we were trying to chase back.
“I was with Marianne, and we still believed in [the chase] plus Vollering was in there and Lippert. We could then see the time going down and we knew we would make it, and then we were there.”
Uttrup Ludwig was glued to the back wheel of Vos going as the group started the final climb, but she was shuffled out of position. It wasn’t until the final meters of the stage that she started closing in on those up front and she shot past Vos before pulling out a sizable gap on the yellow jersey to take the biggest win of her career.
“I wasn’t really meaning to wait, I felt like I was sitting in quite a good spot being in Marianne’s wheel going under the flamme rouge,” Uttrup Ludwig explained. “I kind of lost the position a bit and I thought shit, oh no. Kasia was already attacking at the bottom, but I just kept fighting and I was thinking ‘I can come back, I think I can come back, I can at least get the podium.’ Then I realized it was pretty good and then I just went for it. It’s pretty amazing, because yesterday was so shit. To keep fighting with the team to have the motivation so high is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The stage victory, in the jersey of national champion, is the latest in a run of success for Danish riders. The nation has been on something of a high since the men’s Tour de France started in Copenhagen earlier this month with Jonas Vingegaard winning the overall title while Magnus Cort and Mads Pedersen also gave the country’s fans plenty to cheer about.
Uttrup Ludwig hopes that the summer of success will have an impact at home and show young girls that they too can race at the highest level.
“I hope that we can continue to grow cycling and the young boys and the young girls sitting in front of the television, seeing the grand depart in Denmark and seeing how many spectators were out on the road. I think it was almost the whole country,” she said.
“It gives a lot to the young boys and girls, especially the young girls now that they don’t always see the boys on television, they also see the girls and they see that they can make it hard and interesting and they can think that can be me one day. They start dreaming about this. It’s really good. It’s a good year for Danish cycling.”