Danish cyclists cannot stop winning French races. Days after Jonas Vingegaard rolled across the Champs Élysées as the first Dane to win the yellow jersey since 1996, Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig took Stage 3 of the Tour de France Femmes with a devastating uphill sprint. Ludwig was riding fifth wheel inside the final 150 meters behind a select group led by Elisa Longo Borghini and yellow jersey-wearer Marianne Vos when she swung right and exploded past the sprinting pack. Vos could only look over and grimace as Ludwig comfortably took the stage.
Ludwig’s win was a significant one for a couple of reasons. Her Française des Jeux teammate Marta Cavalli was among the major favorites to win the race, only to be forced to abandon before the finish of the second stage after Austrian champion Nicole Frain crashed over and through her at full speed when she didn’t see that a few riders had hit the deck. This enraged the FDJ team, whose manager, Stephen Delcourt, called for Frain to be thrown out of the race for her negligence. The Tour de France is a big deal for the women’s peloton, who finally get to race an actual Tour, well, de France after subsisting on the relative scraps of La Course, a one-day affair the peloton wasn’t too thrilled with. Thanks to pressure from riders and the sponsorship of a popular cycling video game/training simulator, the peloton will get to race a full eight stages this year, beginning in Paris and ending atop La Planche des Belles Filles. Women have only had their own Tour de France five previous times, from 1984 to 1989, so the 2022 race is one of the biggest on the calendar. The biggest stars in the world are here.
And Ludwig smoked all of them. Vos is the winningest cyclist of her generation, yet Ludwig gapped her running away. Given the significance of her win, Ludwig was fired up and she gave a tremendously emotional interview. “It was a fucking shit day yesterday,” she said, trying and mostly failing to hold back the tears. “And in this [Danish] jersey, it doesn’t get better,” she said. “I didn’t come into the last corner in the best position but I kept fighting. What a victory man, this is for the team they did such a good job yesterday and they kept believing in me.”
Ludwig, a very consistent racer, has become a fan favorite for her unfiltered post-race interviews. It’s hard not to root for someone who fights as hard as she does and clearly loves racing so much, a joy she expresses whenever reporters give her space to talk.
The three stages of this Tour de France have each been thrilling in their own ways, and tomorrow promises even more. There is almost no way the racing on Stage 4 won’t be thrilling. The second half of the race features five categorized climbs and four sections of unforgiving gravel roads. Vos’s lead is slim, with six riders within a minute of her, though she is an eight-time cyclocross World Champion, so she might have another opportunity to seize a commanding lead.