The final of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes saw the breakthrough of Grace Brown (Mitchelton-Scott) at the highest level of racing. The 28-year-old Australian attacked from the chase group of eight on the steepest part of the final climb, the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons, 14km from the finish in a bid to close the 50-second gap to Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo), who had attacked on the Côte de La Redoute.
At the top of the climb, Brown was 32 seconds behind. Closing the gap even further on the descent, she had Deignan in her sight several times during the final kilometres as she reduced the gap to only 10 seconds. Coming onto the finishing straight, though, it was Deignan who could raise her arms in triumph while Brown finished as runner-up.
Brown explained that she had conflicting thoughts about her chances during the downhill chase.
“Part of your head is ‘I can’t do it’ and the other part is saying ‘you’re so close, you just need to push harder!’ It was a real time trial, and I know that I am a stronger timetrialler than Lizzie Deignan, but the majority of the road left was downhill. You have to put out a lot of power to gain anything there,” she said.
Brown’s time trial pedigree was confirmed by her strong fifth place in the ITT World Championships at Imola. In Liège-Bastogne-Liège, she had to work hard to even be part of the decisive breakaway.
“About halfway through the race, there was a hard and technical section, and a break of eight went up the road,” she recounted. “We weren’t represented in that, so we started to try to bring it back, but the gap wasn’t closing. Then I decided to bridge across to the break. And then Lizzie Deignan attacked on the Redoute and got a gap.
“I went on the final climb and tried to bridge to Lizzie but didn’t quite make it in the end. A bit bittersweet, but I am really excited to have my first WorldTour podium.”
Grace Brown only took up cycling in 2016 after recurrent injuries frustrated her running career. She quickly made a name for herself in the Australian National Road Series, winning her first race in 2017 and getting selected for the national team for a number of European races.
In 2018, Brown received the Amy Gillett scholarship, racing with Wiggle-High5 for three months before returning to Australia to win the National Road Series overall. Since 2019, she has been part of the Mitchelton-Scott team. In her first full European season, she went on a long attack in the Ronde van Drenthe, only being caught in the final 15km.
In her two years with Mitchelton-Scott, Brown has often raced in support of Annemiek van Vleuten and Amanda Spratt. With Van Vleuten leaving the team after this season, Brown’s performance in the Ardennes shows that she can stake a claim for leadership herself.
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