Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig has hailed the Tour de France Femmes as 'just the beginning' for FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope as the Dane prepares to lead the team's overall efforts toward their biggest goal yet.
Uttrup Ludwig signed with the team in 2020 to be their stage race leader and has been a big part of their development over the last three seasons. As the biggest race on the calendar for the French team, that journey has been leading toward the Tour de France Femmes.
"[The development] has happened a lot since I joined the team," the Dane said. "It's been fantastic to be on this journey with the team. The goal when I joined this team was to try and become one of the best in the world, to build a strong team, and get everything, a service course, and the scale is bigger and better.
"It's amazing to see what has happened in just two and a half years, and I feel we are not finished but just beginning."
As a result of the development of the team, Uttrup Ludwig starts the Tour with a talented support squad - including Giro runner-up Marta Cavalli - and is optimistic about their chances.
"I'm really happy and confident with the team that is such a strong team at the Tour," she said. "It's a great team for all stages. We are bringing a strong team and I have strong girls behind me. I'm very confident and happy."
Though the Tour has been a long-awaited goal for Uttrup Ludwig, she has had a difficult first half of the year, missing some big goals but recording some promising results in the Spanish stage races.
"It hasn't been the best season for me, a bit of a rollercoaster with getting Covid, and then, unfortunately, having to skip all the Classics," she said. "It was a bummer but luckily the team did really well. It's been hard to come back to racing as I haven't been racing that much this year."
A mix of personalities brings balance to GC goals
Uttrup Ludwig returned to racing at the National Championships - which she won - and then the Giro d'Italia Donne, where she raced in support of teammate Cavalli. She finished sixth overall, but the main success of the race was getting back into race shape.
"It was really good for me to do the Giro, to get back, I've been missing it. I had a bit of a recovery and so hopefully, I'll be fit and sharp."
"I felt pretty good," she said of her post-race form. "Considering that I haven't been racing a lot this year. I felt good and I think it was good prep at the Giro."
As well as physical training, the Giro was part of Uttrup Ludwig and Cavalli's ongoing partnership, honing their communication and understanding to best help one another in these big races.
"It works well," she said. "In a relationship, it's also nice with yin and yang, it's good to have that balance. It's not only between me and Marta, it's the whole team. We have so many different personalities, but also a good mix."
After Uttrup Ludwig's efforts for Cavalli at the Giro, Cavalli will be key climbing support in the Tour's back-to-back final mountain stages, which the Dane branded as "mega, mega hard".
One of the biggest personalities in the peloton, it's no surprise that Uttrup Ludwig is full of excitement ahead of the rebooted Tour de France Femmes.
"I'm just a mix of emotion, excited, and just, to be honest, pinching myself," she said. "Is this really happening? Are we racing the Tour de France? It's huge, a dream, and something we've been working hard on for a long time.
"It doesn't get much bigger than riding with a French team at the Tour de France, on top of that to be in my national team jersey and ride with my flag on, it's huge."
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