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FDJ women celebrate Brown's podium as Cavalli misses Ardennes triple

Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) finished second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes
Grace Brown (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) finished second in Liege-Bastogne-Liege Femmes (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Having won the Amstel Gold Race two weeks earlier, followed by a fifth place at Paris-Roubaix Femmes and another victory at La Flèche Wallonne Femmes, Marta Cavalli (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) went into Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes as one of the favourites.

With another victory, she could have become the second woman (after Anna van der Breggen in 2017) to win all three Ardennes Classics – but unlike on the Cauberg and Mur de Huy, the 24-year-old Italian could not follow Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar Team) when it counted and instead supported her teammate Grace Brown, who won the sprint for the runner-up place. Cavalli was not disappointed to miss out on a historic achievement, acknowledging that Van Vleuten was stronger on the day.

"In the end, I wasn't good enough to follow Annemiek, but that can happen sometimes. I didn't recover well after two big races in a row and arrived a bit tired this morning because I had to do a lot of media work, but I am not disappointed. I was in the first group behind the winner, I have no regrets. We can't win every race, and it is a good result for Grace as she did not have an easy first part of the year," said Cavalli.

Brown had missed the late 2021 season due to a shoulder injury, and her return to European racing was somewhat of a struggle. Although she performed well and achieved decent results, a podium had so far eluded her.

"I guess I expected to maybe be on the podium earlier this season, so it was a relief to finish my classics with a podium place, and I really love this race, so I am happy with second here," she said after winning the sprint for the runner-up place against Team SD Worx' Demi Vollering.

In the final, Brown took affairs into her own hands and attacked solo: "I got dropped on La Redoute but came back to the group, and I knew I was going to struggle on the next climb," Brown explained. "My best chance was to try to attack between the two climbs, and I found a good moment to do that.

"I felt strong out on my own, riding a bit more at my own pace rather than following the surges on the climbs, and it was quite advantageous because I got a head start on the Roche-aux-Faucons and was able to be in the select group chasing Annemiek and be there for the sprint."

All told, FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope has had a very good Classics campaign where the team as a whole has stepped up and established itself as top contenders, even as Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig missed her favourite hilly classics with a Covid-19 infection, and Brown is looking forward to the summer.

"We are really confident as a team now; we are taking it in our stride to go into races as top contenders. It's super cool that we can have Marta winning two races, then I can come here and be on the podium, we can share it a little bit and use our strengths. In the Tour de France Femmes when we have Cecilie as well, we will be quite a strong team to contend with. It's exciting," the Australian finished.

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