Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s 2022 was one of the highest heights and some of the lowest lows.
The FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope rider got her year off to a strong start with second overall at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana and appeared on course to peak for the Ardennes classics until she was stopped in her tracks with a positive COVID-19 test the day after the Tour of Flanders.
While the COVID infection was gone fairly quickly, she had to deal with the enduring fatigue that went with it. It took a couple of months for her to find her groove again, but when it came back it did it with a vengeance as she laid claim to the Danish road race title, a Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift stage, and the overall title at the Tour of Scandinavia.
“I guess 2022 was one of my best seasons ever, but the thing is that it didn’t start out that well having COVID and missing all the Ardennes and all the big classics I was so excited to race,” Uttrup Ludwig told VeloNews. “Luckily, the team did really good and won a lot of races and that was amazing to follow. For myself, it was hard not to do those races, and just having been stuck with COVID was just not nice.
“But then I felt like slowly, but steadily I worked my way back and did the Giro to help Marta was just good because I kind of needed some, some races in my legs. And then obviously, the Tour didn’t start out very nice, but then we had some very, very magical moments. It’s been a roller coaster. In general, the season has been up and down. Having the most awesome moments ever, and then very low points. The funny thing is that that is also me, you know, that’s me as a person, very up and down like a roller coaster.”
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The victory at the Tour de France Femmes was perhaps the highlight of the season for Uttrup Ludwig, alongside starting the Tour of Scandinavia in her home country. The 27-year-old outkicked Marianne Vos in the uphill finish into Épernay to take the win on stage 3.
It came the day after a torrid stage for the FDJ squad that had seen co-leader Marta Cavalli leave the race following brutal crash, while Uttrup Ludwig and Evita Muzic had both also ended up on the deck. It was the Dane’s biggest career victory so far and she’s not yet tired of seeing it.
“I get so happy every time that people remind me on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook with the pictures from the Tour victory. I’m just like, oh, this is such a good day. I think I can still cry,” she said. “This October, before I went to Australia [where she spent her off-season vacation], we went on a little team gathering in France and we watched the documentary that Eurosport made on our Tour de France, which was like an hour or so, and I was crying watching it. You re-live those moments one more time because it was really it was such a shit second stage, you know? It was so terrible. And like the whole fucking team on the ground, like five out of six riders on the ground, and Marta having to abandon and it was just the most terrible stage.
“The way that we were celebrating that evening, it was just, sorry I have to swear, it was so fucking good.”
Cavalli was still with the team when Uttrup Ludwig won as she was being observed by the team’s doctors for symptoms of concussion following her heavy crash. It added something a little special to the celebrations, and the Italian also cooked up a surprise for the team when they arrived at their hotel.
“It was good because we wanted to be able to celebrate together and be like. I was happy and the team was happy that nothing was too serious so that she was able to be there with us. It was really good. She actually made a cake for us. It was so sweet. It was so good,” Uttrup Ludwig said.
“We had a rolling kitchen and when she saw we won then she made the cake and then we had champagne, of course, which is kind of cool because it was the Champagne region. It was really good. I remember it was really good champagne.”
It was a big summer of racing for Danish cycling with the start of the men’s race held in Denmark in front of huge crowds. Jonas Vingegaard went on to win the men’s race and Uttrup Ludwig, dressed in the jersey of national champion, picked up the baton from her compatriot.
The buzz of the summer was still felt when she lined up at the Tour of Scandinavia a week after the women’s Tour finished, which rolled out of Copenhagen. She backed up her Tour form with a confident overall victory and stage win at the rebranded race.
“It was so good to confirm it then and to keep on going and then winning in Tour of Scandinavia. That just made it such a good summer. There was all the hype that maybe from being a Danish rider and Jonas Vingegaard winning the Tour de France and then everyone just being a fan of cycling because there was so much attention on cycling, and then winning Scandinavia and also continuing the Tour of Danish.
“That’s what everyone said ‘the Tour of Danish.’ It was like all over the news and people were writing to me and being like, ‘Oh, it was just good that you could continue that kind of feeling that. I don’t know, it feels like people got to know me a bit more maybe in Denmark.”
After an off-season down in Australia with her boyfriend, and fellow racer, Miles Scotson, Uttrup Ludwig is back in Europe and beginning her preparation for the forthcoming season. She’s eyeing up a long-desired return to the hilly classics of the Ardennes before taking on the Tour de France Femmes again.
It’s the thought of those goals that gets her through the hard training miles in the cold winter months.
“I want to start racing and I want to be attacking and I want to be doing all the things. I’m so excited. I want to do the classics again. It’s something when I’m training for something that is in my mind, something I’m looking forward to doing,” she said.
“I already now look forward to the Tour because there’s no other race compared to the tour. I guess you can only say that after having done the tour and having experienced that too. My boyfriend has done the Tour before and he said also for the men there’s just no other race like the Tour.”
There are still just over seven months until the second edition of the Tour de France Femmes departs from Clermont Ferrand, but Uttrup Ludwig is already buzzing for it.
“I know it’s hard, but I want to do it again. Let the roller coaster start.”