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After Denmark failed to earn a spot in the women’s road competitions at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, Uttrup Ludwig has had to bide her time to realize her dream.
She has been named alongside her former Cervelo-Bigla teammate Emma Norsgaard to represent a small but powerful Danish team in Tokyo.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about since I was a little girl. I think many people dream of doing an Olympics and representing their country. It is something everyone knows,” Uttrup Ludwig told VeloNews.
“It’s just so special because it’s such a big event and it only happens every fourth year. Even if you’re not interested in sport, you know what the Olympics stands for. Yeah, it’s such a big thing.”
While Uttrup Ludwig is excited about making her debut as an Olympian, she is still disappointed in the route laid out for the women’s peloton. In Tokyo, the men will take on the iconic Mount Fuji, while the women’s course eschews Fuji in favor of two smaller, but still tough, climbs.
Uttrup Ludwig feels that leaving such an iconic climb out of the women’s race sends the wrong message.
“It is a pity we’re not doing Mount Fuji because it is something extraordinary and something that all the media attention is going towards. People say, wow, you know the guys are climbing Mount Fuji. And, Mount Fuji is also such an iconic symbol of Japan. So, the fact that we’re not doing it,” she said.
“It kind of feels like, the women are not strong enough to do Mount Fuji. I’m not saying we should do the same distance because I also don’t think it makes the race more exciting. I think our racing is exciting already but I’m just saying that if there’s something that is so epic, like climbing Mount Fuji, I think the women should also have that.”
Despite the lack of Mount Fuji in the women’s course, it should still provide a tough race for the peloton with 2,692 meters of climbing packed into just 137 kilometers. And while the Dutch team goes with a formidable line-up, the country’s ability to control the race will be far less than if it was at the world championships due to a maximum team size of four riders.
Uttrup Ludwig is interested to see how the reduced rosters will impact the racing.
“I hope it’s going to be a hard race. It’s always, I guess since I also have not raced an Olympics before, but it can only say from what I’ve heard and watched also the previous Olympics,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “It’s a bit of a funny race, because we miss like half the bunch and the dynamic is different but more unpredictable.”
Uttrup Ludwig is racing the Giro d’Italia Donne at the moment where she has been off the pace after a heavy crash in the opening team time trial. Prior to that, the 25-year-old enjoyed a very strong spring and summer period, putting in top 10 results on 12 of her 23 days of racing so far.
She came out of the traps quickly, with fifth place at Strade Bianche in March, and continued her strong run throughout the classics. However, she had to wait a while to take her first win of the season.
When she finally did take the top spot, it was a big one – her first-ever WorldTour win on stage 3 of the Vuelta a Burgos. After years of trying, it was sweet relief for Uttrup Ludwig.
“I’ve had a really good season, but it has been quite frustrating being up there but not winning. And, and then, it was such a relief when I finally had the WorldTour win in Burgos. And it was kind of like, that was the first one you know, like, wow. That felt like a relief.
“Now it feels like, it’s not like now I can take it easy because I want to continue [winning]. I think I’ve shown that I can be up there amongst the best in the world. Of course, I miss more wins but I think I’ve shown that I have a good level.”
This year is Uttrup Ludwig’s second on the FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope squad, after joining the French outfit ahead of the 2020 season. She appears to have settled in well with the squad and has worked well with rising stars Marta Cavalli and Évita Muzic to make for an aggressive approach to racing, ably supported by the likes of Brodie Chapman.
“I’m really happy with the team and I think they gave me a lot of confidence. I just like being with the riders, we have a really good group of riders,” Uttrup Ludwig told VeloNews. “It’s also super nice to see how the team also is getting more and more professional, which is a bit beautiful to be in as well.”
As a French squad, the team is packed with a French core but its international roster has really grown in recent years. From being almost entirely French – bar one rider – in 2016, five of its 12 riders are international.
“I really like them. It’s a mix of French and international riders. So, my French needs to improve,” Uttrup Ludwig laughed. “It is such an international team, we have so many cultures as well. So, you learn from the French culture and from the Australian culture and we have a little Scandi group as well. It’s just a nice dynamic and different cool girls.”
So, how is that French coming along? Has she been hitting the books hard?
“No, I have to be honest. I have to be honest,” she said. “I will pick up the learning hat soon, but it has not happened yet.”