Grace Brown: This opportunity might not come again

LIEGE BELGIUM OCTOBER 04 Grace Brown of Australia and Team Mitchelton Scott during the 4th Liege Bastogne Liege 2020 Women Elite a 135km race from Bastogne to Liege LBL LBLwomen classiquesardennes on October 04 2020 in Liege Belgium Photo by Luc ClaessenGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After an outstanding breakthrough season in 2020, Grace Brown (Team BikeExchange) is planning on taking her opportunity to lead the Australian team in the Spring Classics.

The 28-year-old won Brabantse Pijl last season and finished second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège behind Lizzie Diegnan but she was also consistent throughout the reconfigured Classics season with a string of strong performances. With Annemiek van Vleuten now at Movistar the Australian is looking to fill the void and lead her team into the Classics and one-day arena.

“The year is open to me in a way and I have to make the most of this opportunity as it might not come again,” Brown told Cyclingnews during her off-season.

“I see this season as pretty important in terms of taking it up to the next level and continuing what I was doing at the end of last season. It’s a continuation that I need to improve and need to keep working towards the best way of getting results. Without Annemiek van Vleuten there, it’s going to be really interesting for the team, and for the other girls as well – not just me – who see themselves as stepping up.

Brown burst onto the scene in 2018 with a number of impressive rides back in Australia and she moved to Mitchelton-Scott at the start of the following year. By her own admission, she was thrown into the deep end at the WorldTour and her first full campaign was as much about learning as gaining results.

“I was definitely thrown into the deep end. I think that in my first season with the team I did the most races in the team that year. It was a matter of getting that experience under my belt so that I could find another level for 2020 and then the hope is to step it up again. It’s been a process of learning how to race the Classics as a whole and knowing when to be in position, when to use your energy and the style of riding. That’s something that I’ve slowly learned over the last couple of years.”

That experience and race craft paid dividends in 2020, but before Brown returns to Europe for a campaign of racing, she is set to compete at the Santos Festival of Racing. While there are some doubts over the replacement event to the Women’s Tour Down Under due to a small increase in COVID-19 numbers, Brown is set to compete in the Adelaide-based stage race, which this year will see a women’s peloton race up Willunga Hill for the very first time.

Although the event isn’t WorldTour, Brown will still hope to put on a display for the home crowds before taking on the Australian national championships and then heading to Europe.

“It was initially announced that the Tour Down Under was cancelled, which was disappointing, but it’s going to be fun to race on Australian soil before heading back to Europe and see where we are at. It’s always fun to put on a show for the Australian fans as well,” she said.

“None of us will be targeting our training towards it but it’s important for the team to be there and to put on a really good race. Our Australian competitors will be strong and it won't be easy to walk away with the honours. Being on home soil and having our local fans cheering us on adds a bit more importance.

"This year’s course seems well suited to me. I’ve not ridden but from looking at the profile it looks good for me and GC, with maybe a stage here or there. Willunga will be exciting. It’s just a short stage before we race to the top so it will be a bit of a sprint but it’s an iconic climb and it will be good to see what the women can do up there. Hopefully, this sets the path for us to be racing up there in the future when the race is UCI again.”

One event that Brown has on her radar in the second half of the season is the UCI Road World Championships. With Amanda Spratt also on the national team, the squad certainly has options but Brown indicated that she might be heading to the Olympic Games in order to support Spratt, while taking on more of a leadership role in Belgium for the Worlds. “I had someone describe the Worlds road course to me as another version of Brabantse Pijl, so I’m pretty excited about the course,” Brown told Cyclingnews.

 “I’m looking towards working towards that. The year will be tough as we have the Olympics as well and a lot of people will be focused on that so that the worlds get a bit forgotten until the second half of the year but I’m definitely going to keep that in my mind throughout the whole year so that I’ve got a good chance. I’ll hopefully be on the team for Toyko, but I’ll be a support rider there, whereas I hope to be a leader for the World Championships.”

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.