Cecilie Uttrup, FDJ rider: “It would be so cool to represent Denmark in the Olympic Games”
She’s only 24 years old and the new signing of the FDJ- Nouvelle - Aquitaine - Futuroscope team for the next season 2020.
We have interviewed Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig during her first training camp in Cambrils Park Sport Village. She’s the new rider of the team, a young woman full of energy and passionate about cycling with a great future ahead.
When did you start cycling?
I started cycling about 10 or 11 years ago. Before cycling, I was swimming a lot, but I started to feel sick every time I was in the water, so I stopped swimming. After that, I tried every sport that you can think of, but nothing really caught my attention. One day, the local newspaper had an article about the local cycling club 9th anniversary inviting people to go and try. I thought, why not? I went and ever since then I’ve been cycling.
Your cycling career has progressed very fast! With only 23 years old you were the team leader of your previous team: Bigla Pro Cycling. Does it feel good?
It has been an improvement year by year… When I look back, I do it with a smile because I can see that I am getting better and that’s nice. Three years ago, I even wasn’t getting paid for cycling, so I had to work in a supermarket to earn some money. It has been quite a development. Now, I get paid for doing something that I love every single day… how lucky am I!
This is your first season with FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope Team. How do you feel?
The atmosphere in the team is very cool. There’s a good mix; we train hard, stay focused and serious, but we also have fun and we can joke with each other. I am looking forward to starting racing with the team in 2020.
This year you achieved the 3rd position in the Tour of Flandes and in La Course by Le Tour of France, congratulations! Which one was harder?
I just love racing, during the year we have many kinds of races, but I love when they’re hard. For me, the harder the better. That said, maybe Flandes is one of the hardest races because it’s long and it's just cobbles and steep hills.
Be honest, do you think there’s a little bit of masochism in cycling? Because it looks like the more you suffer the more you enjoy!
It’s funny because we enjoy it! For example, in the time trial you’re all alone in your little bubble and you need to go harder and harder… But, finding that moment when you focus completely and you let go everything else, it’s something very special and difficult to master.
To enjoy the suffering in races It’s also about having trained a lot of hours before. If you are in a bad shape and go to a race it’s a different suffering. Let’s say there are different kinds of suffering, we like good suffering.
In La Course, only 3 seconds separated you from the winner, Marianne Vos and just a breath from the second classified, Leah Kirchmann. Is it frustrating to deal with such a small difference?
Yes, sometimes the difference between your mark and the winning mark is very small, but it’s also part of the beauty of cycling. Sometimes can be annoying to accept that you’ve lost a race just for 1 second but, after, you try to improve, to train harder, to improve your position… You should also enjoy the process to try to be one of the best in the world.
Are the classic races your favourites?
The classics are some of my favourite races. But I also like when we have mountains, for example, in The Giro Rosa which is the only Grand Tour we have as women.
According to your experience, what’s more difficult when we talk about professional cycling, the mental challenge or the physical challenge?
It’s a mix. I think cycling is one of the toughest sports physically speaking, but there's also the need to train the mental side. Sometimes you underestimate how important is to be motivated and to be happy. I always say: happy head, fast legs. If I am happy, I go fast, the mental side is super important, maybe 50%. If you win it up in your head, the legs will go with you.
I always say: happy head, fast legs. If I am happy, I go fast, the mental side is super important, maybe 50%. If you win it up in your head, the legs will go with you.
What do you love the most of this tough elite sport?
I love cycling because there are so many aspects to consider! You can be good at the tactical part, for example, knowing when is better to attack. You can also be good in the technical part, for example, being good when descending, at cornering… You are out in nature and you can explore so many places around the world with your bike.
In your opinion, which do you think are the biggest challenges for women’s cycling?
Right now, we are aiming for equality, but we are still behind men. One of the biggest challenges for us is the fact that we have a lack of the media and TV attention. We need people to watch our races, so they may realize our races are just as exciting as men's races.
One of the biggest challenges for us is the fact that we have a lack of the media and TV attention. We need people to watch our races, so they may realize our races are just as exciting as men races.
Now we are going in the right direction; we are also standing with the world tours teams; we are having a minimum salary… Before that, many girls were riding for 0 money. I remember 3 years ago when I was working in a supermarket stand up for the whole day, and once I was free at 5 o'clock is when I could train. They were very hard and long days.
What’s your goal for the 2020 season? Maybe represent Denmark in the Olympic games?
Exactly! This is one of my biggest calls for next year. It’s an Olympic year and it would be so cool to represent Denmark in the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020. We’ll cross fingers and hope that we’ll succeed in there.