Teamwork and course knowledge will be the deciding factor at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, according to Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig.
Sunday’s FDJ-Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope team will be the strongest squad the charismatic Danish woman has led on the Belgian cobbles, and she is hoping they can dictate the race.
In 2019 she finished third behind Italian sprinter Marta Bastianelli (Alé-BTC Ljubljana), but Uttrup Ludwig knows she will need to risk all to take the win.
“She [Bastianelli] was flying and at the end I didn’t have any more energy, that was all I had to give, but it’s not a good idea to come home with a sprinter,” Uttrup Ludwig told an online press conference. “It’s super cool to get WorldTour podiums but now I think I really want to go for the win, and I would rather risk it and then get 20th. So you either risk big and you win big or you lose big.”
In recent years FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope have steadily been internationalising their roster with the aim of having a 50/50 French and international squad. As part of that policy, Uttrup Ludwig joined last season and the team now has the depth to take on the bigger teams.
Emilia Fahlin joined in 2019 but has lacked form after suffering an injury, but her 2021 results have been improving each race, and last weekend the former Swedish champion finished sixth at Ghent-Wevelgem.
The addition of the hugely versatile Marta Cavalli has also proved a boon for the French squad. The Italian can compete in bunch kicks, bagged eighth at Strade Bianche, and also finished 10th and 11th in the two most recent editions of De Ronde. Uttrup Ludwig too has been going well, with top five finishes in Strade Bianche and Trofeo Binda.
“This is something that will play in our favour,” said 25 year-old Uttrup Ludwig. “In the end having multiple cards to play is always an advantage, it’s going to be super cool because I think we will start with cards to play.
“It will be about having numbers, and you’ll probably also see good team tactics because when the bunch is getting small in the final, if you still have two teams that have four or five riders even they can play the cards. If you only sit with one or two it’s hard to go on every attack so you have to choose which one you go to, and sometimes it’s luck that you chose the right one. Sometimes you’re not choosing the right one and then the race has gone.
Despite the increasing depth in the women’s peloton, SDWorx and Trek-Segafredo are still the strongest, but as we saw at Dwars Door Vlaanderen anything can happen anywhere.
The bunch will tackle 13 climbs and five other, flat cobbled sectors through the 152.4km race, with the traditional closing double of Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg often decisive. Uttrup Ludwig expects the action to start much earlier however.
“I think the final will play out before the Kwaremont, and often also winning race move has gone just after Hotond, but also everyone so keen and so motivated to be in the top 10 when we turn right into Kanarieberg because that is the start, so then you have to be ready.
“You need to know the course and you need to know your opponents.”