Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig won the mountain top stage at the Tour of Scandinavia on Saturday, and with it took the race’s overall lead with one stage remaining.
Sporting the Danish champion’s jersey, the FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope rider was alone with Liane Lippert for the final three kilometres, and while the pair worked well to start with, as the line approached the German would not come through.
Though Uttrup Ludwig appeared frustrated by the lack of cooperation, she needn’t have been, leading from the front into the final 200m where she opened her sprint, easily beating the punchy DSM rider into second.
Plantur-Pura bagged their best ever WorldTour result, Julie Van de Velde taking an excellent third place after a series of illnesses and injury issues in recent seasons.
It was an excellent day for the British riders too. In fourth place at the Norefjell ski resort, Josie Nelson (Coop-Hitec Products) showed herself as one to watch for the future, riding with the best on the climb and out-sprinting stage four winner Alex Manly (BikeExchange-Jayco).
There was also an excellent ride from Sophie Wright (UAE-ADQ) whose long solo move was the only serious breakaway of another active and aggressive day.
Uttrup Ludwig has been near the top of the sport for a few years now, but this summer she has finally blossomed. Last month she won the punchy Tour de France Femmes aves Zwift stage into Epernay, and Saturday’s win is the first time she has taken more than one WorldTour win in a season.
She will need to be attentive on Sunday’s final stage, though. Her lead over Lippert is only 17 seconds, and any mishaps on the punchy closing circuit of the 154km stage to Halden will be punished.
How it happened
For its queen stage the Tour of Scandinavia headed to the scene of Annemiek van Vleuten’s 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway victory, the ski resort at Norefjell, north west of Oslo.
At 127.4km the fifth stage was far from the longest of the six but with the 11km climb to the finish, averaging 6.1%, it was likely to be the decisive day of the race. However, with SDWorx losing their three strongest climbers, Demi Vollering, Niamh Fisher-Black and Scot, Anna Shackley the dynamics of the race were likely to be different, and the chance of Marianne Vos defending her 20 second overall lead increased slightly.
The climb to the resort, which hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics, was the day’s main feature, with much of the opening 114km relatively, flat or false flat. There were a couple of short sharp intermediate climbs though, the peloton looping around the start town of Vikersund, before heading north west and into the mountainous wilderness.
Esmee Peperkamp was the first to attack, the DSM rider getting away from the gun. The 25 year-old Dutch rider built a lead of almost one minute before being reeled back in, allowing Alison Jackson (Liv-Xstra) to win the intermediate sprint and consolidate her points classification lead.
After of the second of those classified climbs a flurry of attacks saw Sarah Roy (Canyon-SRAM) go clear, and despite a number of counter attacks trying to bridge, the Australian classics rider managed to build a lead of 45 seconds, with over half the stage behind her.
But, as has happened in the four previous stages the race would not settle, and a series of moves saw a group of seven form around Roy at the front. However, one of those was Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo), and with the Dutch rider a GC threat, the rest of the break refused to work, the peloton regrouping 46km from the finish.
A couple of kilometres later, Brit Sophie Wright (UAE-ADQ) attacked and was quickly allowed a gap. The Norwich born rider was off the front in the corresponding stage of the 2021 Ladies Tour of Norway along the same road, but this time was allowed more space and soon had over one minute on the peloton led by Canyon-SRAM.
With 30km to go and Wright’s lead more than two minutes, Liv-Xstra’s Valerie Demey was up to her old tricks, and headed off in pursuit. The Belgian dangled around 1-40 behind the leader, but despite a brief response in the bunch the Briton’s advantage on the peloton continued to grow, finally settling at 2-20.
However, with 18km to go and the peloton bearing down, Demey sat up, Wright’s hopes of a solo winning now forlorn with her lead at 1-10, the start of the climb only nine kilometres away. Just five kilometres further on she was caught.
Hoping for a repeat of last year’s success for Van Vleuten, and with Sarah Gigante and Katrine Aalerud both excellent climbers, Movistar led into the the bottom of the climb, before FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope who took over, the gradient kicking up, splitting the bunch.
Despite the pace being set by the French squad, and the front group being whittled down to around 25 after two kilometres of ascending, overall leader Marianne Vos remained stubbornly near the front.
But with just under eight kilometres to go the Dutch rider began to slowly slide backwards, a possible mechanical forcing her almost to a halt as Canyon-SRAM’s Belgian Shari Bossuyt took up pacing duties at the front.
By the time Bossuyt swung off, around 5.5km from the top, only 14 women remained in the front group, DSM taking their turn in the form of Peperkamp, burying herself for German champion Liane Lippert.
However, around three kilometres from the top Neve Bradbury attacked, and when Lippert went over the top suddenly only two women were left at the front, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope) joining the German heading up the road on the climb’s steepest slopes.
One kilometre from the line Uttrup Ludwig and Lippert were alone and able to finesse for the win, Lippert refusing to come through.
Result Tour of Scandinavia, stage five: Vikersund - Norefjell (127.4km)
1. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope in 3-26-24
2. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 01 sec
3. Julie Van de Velde (Bel) Platur-Pura at 31 sec
4. Josie Nelson (GBr) Coop Hitec Products at 38 sec
5. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco
6. Tamara Dronova (N/A) Roland-Cogeas-Edelweiss
7. Anouska Koster (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
8. Esmee Peperkamp (Ned) DSM
9. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
10. Neve Bradbury (Aus) Canyon-SRAM all at same time
General classification after stage five
1. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope in 16-48-30
2. Liane Lippert (Ger) DSM at 17 sec
3. Alex Manly (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco at 44 sec
4. Julie Van de Velde (Bel) Platur-Pura at 55 sec
5. Tamara Dronova (N/A) Roland-Cogeas-Edelweiss at 1-00
6. Neve Bradbury (Aus) Canyon-SRAM
7. Katrine Aalerud (Nor) Movistar all at same time
8. Anouska Koster (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 1-06
9. Esmee Peperkamp (Ned) DSM at same time
10. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 1-08
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