Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) broke the SD Worx stranglehold in the stage 4 mountain time trial at the Giro d'Italia Donne with her third-place finish in a challenging test against the clock. The Australian prevented another 1-2-3 sweep for the Dutch squad while also displaying her strength in the discipline ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“I am happy with my third place. I really wanted to test myself in an individual time trial ahead of the Olympics, and I achieved that today. It was a pretty tough course with lots of climbing, so it was not particularly suited to me. That makes me proud that I fought anyway for that third position,” Brown said after the podium ceremony.
Brown’s strong performance, riding the hard 11.2-kilometre course in 26:14, a little over one minute behind stage winner and overall leader Anna van der Breggen (Team SD Worx), is a promising result with the Olympic Games individual time trial coming up in three weeks.
Brown has made a name for herself in the women’s ITT scene over the last years. Originally a runner, she only took up cycling at age 23 in 2015 and won the Oceanian ITT championships in 2018, racing professionally in Europe for the first time later that year.
In 2019, her first full season as a pro, she won the Australian time trial championships by a margin of 1:34 to her then-teammate Gracie Elvin, who has since retired. Since the women’s calendar is notoriously lacking in time trials, Brown could only show her green-and-gold jersey on stage 6 of the 2019 Giro Rosa. That mountain time trial was still too hard for her at the time, and she finished in 92nd place.
In January 2020, Brown lost the Australian ITT title to youngster Sarah Gigante (Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank), who beat Brown by nine seconds. Brown was again runner-up to Gigante in the 2021 national championships. However, the 28-year-old performed well at the 2020 World Championships where she finished fifth in Imola, one minute behind Van der Breggen and only 30 seconds off the podium.
Monday’s mountain time trial, with an altitude gain of more than 500 metres, was by no means an ideal course for Brown, so her podium result shows that she is right on schedule for a good result at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, scheduled for July 28 at the Fuji International Speedway, an event to which Brown is looking forward to racing.
“It has been a childhood dream,” Brown said, when she was announced to Australia's Olympic team headed to Japan for both the road race and the time trial.
“But it has only really become a reality in the last year or so when I really stepped up in the sport and proved that I could compete against some of the best in the world.”
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