CECILIE UTTRUP LUDWIG
July became the month of redemption for me and it culminated in La Course by Le Tour de France, with me sitting on the asphalt shortly after the finish line and bursting into tears. I actually got a taste of what was coming on the queen stage of the Giro Rosa finishing on top of the mighty Monte Zoncolan. As expected, Zoncolan blew the peloton to pieces. The steepness was unforgivingly brutal and there was no flat to recover, meaning no mercy of any kind. It was all about finding your rhythm, taking the body to the limit of suffering and collapsing.
Most of the climb I battled with Katarzyna Niewiadoma, feeling the breath of Elisa Longo Borghini, Sabrina Stultiens and Katrine Aalerud down my neck. But with four kilometres to go a motorbike overtook us and a mechanic from another team hit me hard from the back with the spare bike he was carrying, nearly causing me to crash. This resulted in a sky-high adrenalin kick, making me forget all about pain and all of a sudden I rode away from the group, finishing eighth on the stage.
At the top, it dawned on me that I might have regained some of the self-confidence that I had lost in earlier the spring. I guess the blow from the mechanic was a blessing in disguise. Right after the Giro Rosa we drove to the French Alps. La Course was awaiting, and we arrived in the middle of the night, giving us the perfect excuse to sleep in! La Course is always a special race for us because we get to experience the media exposure that is connected with the Tour de France, including live coverage worldwide.
We were represented in the morning break, exactly according to our plan. When they were caught at the bottom of the penultimate climb, I saw an opportunity to attack. I managed to keep the peloton behind me until less than two kilometres from the summit of the final climb. When I was caught, my teammate Ashleigh Moolman Pasio made a counter-attack.
Anna van der Breggen reached the summit first, closely followed by Annemiek van Vleuten. Anna kept Annemiek behind her all the way down the descent, but in the last 25 metres was overtaken by Annemiek. Ashleigh came in third and I was fourth. A truly exciting race and a perfect showcase of women’s cycling.
Normally fourth place is the most frustrating result, but I was extremely happy. I couldn’t hide my feelings and tears of joy came running down my cheeks. It was a huge relief - I was bouncing back from a disappointing spring. Things started to slowly turn around after I got an infected wisdom tooth out. I had the feeling it was moving in the right direction. But it wasn’t until this moment I realised that I was finally back to my old self.
Everything was finally back where I left it last year. On top of that we were able to animate the race. We didn’t succeed but we put maximum pressure on the best climbers in the world. Combined with the realisation of being in front of the race with all the spectators cheering for me, it was all too much to contain - in a good way. Therefore the post-race interview got a little more emotional than usual. It was the end of a frustrating year that finally was getting back on track. It was a day to remember!
All smiles for Cecilie who found her form this summer and enjoyed time at the front of La Course in the breakaway