Danish star Cecilie Ludwig Uttrup has taken out the second stage of the Tour Down Under. Image by HANDOUT/SANTOS TOUR DOWN UNDER
  • cycling

Uttrup Ludwig wins Tour stage, takes overall lead

Roger Vaughan January 13, 2024

Danish cycling star Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig calls Australia her second home and has made an immediate impression at its biggest bike race.

The best-credentialled international rider in the women’s field this year has marked her Tour Down Under debut by dominating the punchy uphill stage two finish at Stirling.

That gave the 28-year-old the overall lead heading into Sunday’s final stage and its decisive summit finish on the iconic Willunga Hill, south of Adelaide.

“I like it,” Uttrup Ludwig said of Willunga, made famous by Richie Porte’s exploits over several years in the men’s race.

Uttrup Ludwig’s boyfriend is former Australian road champion Miles Scotson, who will ride in the men’s Tour next week with Arkea-B&B Hotels.

She has made the most of coming to Australia for Christmas, adapting to the heat and showing the benefits of a solid training block through the Adelaide Hills.

When the Dane’s Australian FDJ-Suez teammate Grace Brown, the defending Tour champion, said during Saturday’s stage that she was not at her best, the team quickly switched focus to Uttrup Ludwig.

At the finish she smoked the peloton of 29 riders – featuring all the main race favourites – and won by several bike lengths.

“With one lap to go (on the Stirling finish circuit) she came up to me and said that she was out of legs and ‘you go for it’,” Uttrup Ludwig said of Brown.

“So then we changed plans and I’m just happy I could execute – it’s super-good.

“Australia is my second home, where my boyfriend is from, it just feels so good.”

Italian Soraya Paladin (Canyon/SRAM) won the sprint for second ahead of compatriot Sofia Bertizollo (UAE Team ADQ).

Uttrup Ludwig leads Bertizollo by two seconds overall, with Australia’s newly crowned national road champion Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Jayco AlUla) third at three seconds.

The Dane has joined new star Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) and the legendary Amanda Spratt (Lidl-Trek) as the key riders to watch on Sunday, with the 93.4km stage starting in Adelaide’s city centre and heading south to Willunga.

But Uttrup Ludwig noted the run along the Willunga coast before the final climb is also likely to produce some challenging conditions.

“Those two (Gigante and Spratt) are the girls to follow. They look super-strong out there,” Uttrup Ludwig said.

“There will be a few surprises. It’s going to be a very hard race.

“Especially also with the wind – at the coast, if it’s windy like today it will be hard before the climb, but a different kind of effort.”   

Uttrup Ludwig’s fireworks at the finish lit up the 104.2km stage from coastal Glenelg to Stirling in the Adelaide Hills.

 Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig is the overall leader of the Tour Down Under after taking out stage two. Image by HANDOUT/SANTOS TOUR DOWN UNDER 

The Dane, a three-time stage winner at the Tour de France Femmes, was touted as a pre-race favourite, particularly given Brown’s pre-season was hampered by a back niggle.

Australian Emily Watts (national team) made a solo attack inside the last 16km, but was caught with 8km left.

Also in the last 10km, stage-one winner and previous overall leader Ally Wollaston (AG Insurance-Soudal) first lost touch in the peloton but then worked her way back

Conditions were still warm, but much milder than Friday’s furnace when the temperature reached 40C.