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UCI Road World Championships: More to come from Grace Brown after stellar 2022

Brown 'hungry for more' after being pipped to the world title in Wollongong.

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KIAMA DOWNS, Australia (VN) — Grace Brown (Australia) had a long wait to see if she had done enough to earn the rainbow jersey after finishing her ride in Sunday’s time trial at the UCI Road World Championships.

The 30-year-old would ultimately be trumped by defending champion Ellen van Dijk, the last rider off the start ramp, but there was only a tinge of disappointment. There was much more positive to be taken from the result.

It was Brown’s first visit to a world championships podium in her career in a season that has seen her flourish. It was a result that promised much more from the Australian as her career really begins to take flight.

“It’s made me hungry to be so close to the rainbow jersey. It’s a bit of a big goal for both time trial and road race, but I believe that I can have a good road race as well. So, I’m optimistic, but I’m going to celebrate this first and slowly work toward the road race for next Saturday,” Brown said.

“My goal was to be on the podium and my dream was to win the race, so I achieved my goal and I can still aim for that dream.”

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Brown turned professional in 2018 with the Wiggle-High5 team after a strong season of racing in Europe with the Australian-based Holden Women’s Cycling Team and was picked up by the Mitchelton-Scott the following season.

She quickly showed her promise in the time trialing discipline by taking the 2018 Oceania continental TT title and then adding the Australian title to that in the following season. She’s been gradually picking her way toward the top of the sport since, showing herself to be a strong classics rider as well as being very adept on the TT bike.

Brown is increasingly becoming a household name in the cycling world, but this season has seen her break out into the wider consciousness in her native Australia.

Her dominant victory in the time trial at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year was a big hit in the sport-loving country, and she was a fan favorite in Wollongong as she sat in the hotseat for nearly three hours, passing the time by signing autographs.

“I think this will have to be close to the top in terms of my results experiences. Especially being in Australia and having all of the cheers from the roadside and my family in the crowd while I was in the hotseat, it was just a really special day. To come away with a medal here is pretty big,” she said.

A rising star

While many slowed over the second lap, Brown actually rode a negative split, going faster over the second half of the time trial than she had in the first. It added to the excitement at the end of the day with even Van Dijk losing time to Brown over the section between the second intermediate check and the finish line.

The close battle between herself, Van Dijk, and Marlen Reusser will no doubt see her star rise higher at home and sets her a high benchmark for 2023 as this season’s end comes ever closer.

“I was a bit surprised how early I was off in the field, but it was nice because I could do my own race and I didn’t have any knowledge of what anyone else has done. I expected that I would be on the hotseat and it was a rollercoaster of emotion up there,” Brown said.

“Initially, Annemiek van Vleuten was the first really top time triallist to hit the course. I saw she didn’t have her best day out there and there was quite a difference out there at a lot of the checkpoints and that sort of started this feeling of hope that I was on an absolute flyer.

“Obviously, the last two riders Marlen Reusser and Ellen van Dijk started, and they came through the first checkpoint ahead of me and from there it was a bit of a nervous journey on the hotseat, especially knowing that I had done a fastest second lap than my first. Even though Ellen came well above me in my first lap, I still had thought that there was a chance I could get the rainbow jersey, but she had a phenomenal race, and I can be satisfied with second.”

Sunday’s race program at the world championships was unique with the elite men and women racing on the same day over the same course for the first time in the competition’s history.

Though it caused some consternation to begin with, the action delivered in both competitions, and Brown believes the move was one in the right direction.

Indeed, she would like to see the women’s time trials get longer over time.

“I think it’s strange that it hasn’t been like this before, because really 34 kilometers is not a huge challenge for women to undertake, especially with time trialing you pace the course that you’re given,” Brown said. “I think it’s a no-brainer that we can do the same distance. Hopefully, it can continue like that. Some of the men may feel like it’s a bit short, but as women, we can probably do longer as well, it’s not a huge challenge.”