CECILIE UTTRUP LUD­WIG

Procycling - - PROLOGUE -

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

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