Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig has said that her podium place at the Tour of Flanders is a dream come true. Uttrup Lugwig finished third in a three-up sprint, behind Marta Bastianelli and Annemiek van Vleuten, to claim one of the biggest results of her career so far.
After the departure of Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio to CCC-Liv over the winter, Uttrup Ludwig has taken over the mantle leader at the Bigla Pro Cyclinga team. She is still just 23, but she appears to be shouldering the pressure well with fifth place at Strade Bianche and third at the Trofeo Alfredo Binda, before reaching the podium at Flanders.
Uttrup Ludwig had a chance to clean up and collect her thoughts before talking to the media at the finish line, but the result was still just sinking in for the Danish rider.
“A podium in Flanders is a dream come true and I don’t know if I really got it yet, because being up there with such strong riders and being able to animate the race is just crazy,” Uttrup Ludwig explained. “It was a crazy day and it was so cool with the spectators. The ladies, the Bigla girls, they did such a strong job and keeping me in the front all the time and just helping me. They were dropped, they came back again for one more pull. It was just amazing, it was so cool.”
Uttrup Ludwig was one of the major animators in the finale and she tried to get away a number of times. She followed a move from Kasia Niewiadoma on the Hotond climb, which would ultimately fail, before chasing down Bastianelli on the penultimate climb of the Oude Kwaremont before going over the top of the climb solo.
“It started back from the Kanarieberg, and then it was stop and go, stop and go,” she said. “Coming into the Hotonde was super hard and then after the cobbles, it still continues up and then it was attack and counter-attack, from Spratt and Niewiadoma and a group went away, and Vos also bridged. We were pulling it back and then we knew it was time to put the hammer down on the Kwaremont.”
She was eventually caught by Van Vleuten, Bastianelli and Niewiadoma, though the latter would be distanced and the fight for victory would be down to the three. A chase group formed behind and were only a few seconds behind as they made the run towards Oudenaarde, but they held them off. Uttrup Ludwig had nothing left against her more experienced rivals. In a hugely animated manner that is quite hard to distil into text, Uttrup Ludwig described the tense finale.
“It was fun, it was super fun. People were screaming on the side, and you just feel that energy and you suck it all in and think ‘they’re cheering for me’ – not especially because they were cheering for me, but it was super cool. I just enjoy the energy that this race has; like there are so many spectators it’s crazy,” she said.
“This finish line, you can see it from far, far, far and you just go and then we look back and they were coming full gas from the back and we were just like ‘shit, they can’t come’. I was a dead fish at the end, but it was cool, and I really enjoyed today.”