'Winning is different' – Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig aiming at more than just consistency in 2024

Ardennes, Tour de France Femmes and Olympics on Dane’s agenda in busy season

Clock13:20, Tuesday 13th February 2024
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig has already notched up a win in 2024, but her real goals are still to come

© Tim de Waele / Velo Collection via Getty Images

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig has already notched up a win in 2024, but her real goals are still to come

Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ) is one of the most consistent riders in the women’s peloton, and is almost always amongst the final selection and in the top placing of the season’s biggest races. Big wins in those races, though, are missing from her palmarès, and that’s what the Dane wants to change in 2024.

Uttrup Ludwig has wins, yes, including a stage at the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift in 2022, but no Monuments, no Grand Tour podium finish.

Though her ability to always be in the action points to her strength as a rider, that doesn’t always feel like enough for the 28-year-old.

“I'm always there, but just grabbing that win is something different from being top five or top 10,” she told GCN in a recent conversation. “It's the wins that everyone wants.

“A win is just... you know, you won that race. It's special. That would be a dream.”

FDJ-SUEZ’s popular Danish star already got her season off to a winning streak with a stage victory — albeit an unexpected one — at the Tour Down Under, but her real focuses are still to come, with a busy schedule of racing through the summer.

Read more: Tour Down Under: Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig wins stage 2 with stinging uphill sprint

“I'll be focusing on the Ardennes and the Tour de France,” she confirmed. “It's also exciting that this year is the Olympic year, so I'm also hoping to be on the start line in Paris for that.”

Uttrup Ludwig also confirmed that she will race the Tour of Flanders, but skip Paris-Roubaix.

Compared to seasons gone by where the biggest names in the peloton would target almost all the biggest races, Uttrup Ludwig’s 2024 is much more streamlined and focused around a few key goals, which points to a growing trend in women’s cycling.

“I think the peloton in general is getting more specialised,” she said. “Also in rider types, you see more specialised TT riders, or more specialised climbers, so that means that the level is increasing in women's cycling, which is what we want to achieve.”

That said, Uttrup Ludwig says she still sees herself as a rider who can balance both GC ambitions and the hilly Classics, with Liège-Bastogne-Liège a particular race she picked out amongst her 2024 goals.

“I would like to come away with a few wins,” she said of what would make her year a success. “The dream is to win a Classic. That would be awesome if that happened. And then obviously targeting the best GC possible at the Tour.”

Taking on SD Worx

When it comes to trying to win in the Tour de France or the Ardennes, there is one big thing that stands in the way: SD Worx-Protime, and the almost pre-determined dominance of Demi Vollering.

The Dutch team and their leader were practically untouchable in last year’s Tour, exemplified by their time trial podium sweep on the final day, after Vollering had soloed to victory and the yellow jersey on the Col du Tourmalet, and Lotte Kopecky’s astonishing ride to finish second overall.

“I think last year SD Worx were very dominant, and not just Demi, the whole team,” Uttrup Ludwig said. “This year it will, in a lot of cases, be about how we beat them, because they have a super strong team. And also Kopecky got on the podium too in the Tour, so they have a super strong squad.”

Read more: Is there space for both Lotte Kopecky and Demi Vollering at SD Worx-Protime?

The absence of recently-retired Annemiek van Vleuten opens up the field around SD Worx, though, and Uttrup Ludwig sees chances for other teams to light up the races as the general level in the peloton grows.

“You'd hope that in general the races are closer, because then it's just more interesting to watch. So hopefully we'll all be super competitive and can give them some fight.”

What that also means in practice is that teams are working harder and approaching things differently, to try and match the level of their top competitors. FDJ-SUEZ, for example, will prepare for the Tour with an altitude camp — something that was almost unheard of in women’s cycling a few years ago, but is becoming the norm for many teams.

Read more: Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift 2024 route revealed

An unpredictable Olympics

Like many riders, Uttrup Ludwig will be hoping to combine the Tour de France with the Olympics, with the road race in Paris taking place just a week before the Grand Départ in Rotterdam.

The race is fairly flat, but with national teams only fielding a maximum of four riders, things could play out in an unexpected way, and that’s what Uttrup Ludwig will be hoping to capitalise on.

“It's not crazy hilly. The Olympics is always a bit of a weird race I guess, because it's such a small bunch and there's just different dynamics. Which could make it more interesting, and not as predictable as a normal WorldTour race, because teams simply won't have a big squad to chase down if there's a breakaway. So I'm hoping to give it a good crack.”

After the Olympics and the late Tour de France, Uttrup Ludwig’s plans are less concrete, and it’s clear that the spring and the summer are where her priorities lie — the aim is to take wins by quality, not quantity.

“I think because I'm starting early this year, I won't be doing as many races later on,” she said. “But it all depends on the physical side, the mental side, because it will be a big year with lots of races and the Olympics and all this, so I'll take the temperature after that.”

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