FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope team manager Stephen Delcourt praised his new rider Grace Brown for her ‘instinct’ and ‘spirit’ while racing the biggest races on the Women’s WorldTour. In an interview with the cycling press on Tuesday, Delcourt said he has high hopes for the Australian in the Spring Classics and the Tour de France Femmes.
“Grace is one of the best riders in the world. In every race last year, our sports director would say to Cecilie [Uttrup Ludwig] and Marta [Cavalli], ‘If Grace attacks, please, follow her, and if Grace has 10 metres, it’s finished, so please follow Grace’.
“Now, we want Grace to continue to attack, and then we can attack also. We are happy to have a rider like Grace, who rides with instincts and we really love her spirit.”
Brown kicked off this season with a victory in the time trial and second place in the road race at the Australian Championships. Although she wasn’t able to join her new teammates at a recent team camp in Altea, Spain, she spoke to the press in a video call from her home in Australia.
“I’m a bit sad that I’m not at camp with the rest of the team. I would really love to be there and I’m really eager to join the team and get started working together for this year,” Brown said.
“I’ve had a few races already and I feel ready to start the season and proud to have won the time trial at the national championships and get the first victory out of the way this year.
“I think this year is going to be exciting. I’m looking forward to having a strong team with multiple leaders to work with in the key races.”
Delcourt explained that Brown will join the team’s existing three leaders; Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Marta Cavalli and French Champion Evita Muzic. All four will focus on the Spring Classics and select stage races, while Cavalli will focus on the Giro d’Italia Donne from July 1-10 and Uttrup Ludwig will have a primary focus on the Tour de France Femmes from July 24-31.
Brown highlights the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix Femmes, Tour de France Femmes and the UCI Road World Championships in Australia as her major targets.
“I’m looking at the cobbled Classics first; Tour of Flanders and Paris Roubaix. For me, at the Tour de France, I will be looking more at some stages, and then the Worlds in Australia will be a huge target,” Brown said.
The route revealed for the Tour de France Femmes promises a balance of flat and punchy stages, sectors of gravel, and two mountain finishes all packed into the eight days of racing. Brown said the mid-race puncheur-style stages would likely suit her best.
“I’m yet to look at [Tour de France Femmes] in lots of detail to know which [stages] will be better suited to me, but those middle stages, a little bit more classic-style racing; punchy and dynamic, and would be a good option,” she said.
Mostly, Brown said she’s looking forward to continued improvement in top-tier racing and is excited to be racing on a team that, she believes, will have multiple options at the finals of the biggest races.
“The FDJ team are always having a lot of fun and celebrating each others’ success which will be a nice thing to be a part of. Also, the ability to play in the finals … in a lot of races last year, I was on my own in some of those finals, so it will be cool to play and have fun at the pointy end of the races.”
Asked how she manages to avoid burn-out given that her season starts in Australia in January and will end back on home soil at the World Championships in September, Brown said rest and recovery are keys to success.
“It can be tricky when you have targets throughout the year. I’ve managed this start to the season before with the Australian races and then into the Classics. I think it’s fine if you plan properly and you don’t try and continue building all year and take little periods of rest to let your body recover, and build up again, I’m confident that I can manage the year of racing.”
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.