Grace Brown: “I want to establish myself as one of the leaders of the peloton”
A shoulder injury may have cut short the 2021 season for Grace Brown, but there was no doubt it was the best season of the Australian rider’s career so far, but with big plans underway for the year to come, it may not stay that way for long.
It will be a new team in 2022 for the 29-year-old player who is moving away from the team she started her career with, Team BikeExchange, to join FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope. In addition, she will focus firmly on the Tour de France Women and Paris-Roubaix Women, as well as the road world championships at home and it doesn’t stop there. It may be a post-Olympic year, but there’s certainly no shortage of big goals for 2022 that Brown can afford when asked what would make next season a good one.
âI want to establish myself as one of the leaders of the peloton and have consistent results. Obviously it would be great to get some more WorldTour wins, âsaid Brown. Cycling news, smiling as she continued her wishlist for 2022.
âAnd hopefully a Commonwealth Games medal in the time trial, preferably gold. And yes, I would say a medal at the World Championships, that would be a pretty good year, âshe added with a small laugh.
High hopes, but given how quickly the rider has progressed over her three years as a professional, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to dream big. Even with just 27 days of international racing in 2021, Brown earned her first victory in the Women’s WorldTour, followed by another, seven podiums, 15 top ten and a near-failure of the time trial podium at the Tokyo Olympics. .
An impressive record for a season cut short due to a shoulder injury suffered during the Giro d’Italia Donne. She managed to qualify for the Olympics, but it soon became apparent that her injury was not healing as it should have been and that surgery would be required. This meant there was no choice but to pause and watch from a distance – and hopefully without too many regrets – as the World Championships befitting and the very first Paris -Roubaix feminine was taking place.
âI gave myself a little time to reflect on the fact that it had been a really good year and that I was really proud of the success that I had had and that I put an end to it,â said Brown. . âIt was a really great time until my injury, and then it was about saying, okay, now I just have to work on the surgical process and recover from that.
Vision and passion
Brown, 29, made a late start in cycling after giving up running, but quickly found his way into the sport and signed with Australian team GreenEdge, now known as Team BikeExchange, from 2019. In her second season as a professional in 2020, she has already started to stand out with opportunities to step into a managerial position, first due to the departure of Annemiek van Vleuten for Movistar, then with Amanda Spratt faced with problems due to iliac artery endofibrosis.
It was during this first season interrupted by a pandemic that she won her first European victory at Brabantse Pijl before reaching even higher heights in 2021. Given her growth within her national team, she joined the French team which finished eighth in the UCI ranking. this year it wasn’t exactly the expected option, but it was an option she wholeheartedly embraced.
âI spoke to other teams and in the end my instinct was that FDJ was the best fit for me, that cultural fit as well,â Brown said. âThe obvious is to stay with GreenEdge, but when I’m done with my career I want a range of experiences and I think that means moving around a bit. I don’t want to be constantly moving, but I think I’ll be a more complete rider if I get out of the comfortable team environment and try something new.
At FDJ, she will join a team that appears to be gaining tremendous momentum, with an array of talented young riders developing and a few key players who cannot be ignored as a threat within the peloton. The longtime team have risen through the ranks over the past two seasons and Brown’s signing in 2022, with young Italian rider Vittoria Guazzini, is part of their plan to rise even higher.
âThey had a lot of vision and passion to have me on the team and I was inspired by that and also by what they are trying to do with the team,â said Brown. âIt’s a good thing to be a part of that and to be with a team that are really aiming to be on top and are coming a little behind. But yeah, that’s a nice goal they have and that’s inspired me, and I think they also really enjoyed the type of driver that I am and want that style of racing in their team.
It’s not hard to draw parallels between Brown’s attitude in the races and the decision to move on to her new team as she is a runner who looks for opportunities, will defend herself against the big names and, rather than stay seated and play the game safe or let others dictate terms, don’t be afraid to take a risk to try and win.
With these attributes, it’s easy to see why she seems to fit in well with the often-racing animation team of Futuroscope FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine, which includes Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig, Marta Cavalli, Evita Muzic, Clara Copponi and her compatriot. Australian Brodie Chapman. There she will come in as one of the leaders, who is also perfectly prepared to slip into a supporting role, and the team’s growing firepower means that attack on multiple fronts should more often become a option.
“I think with the other front runners they have on FDJ like Marta and Cecilie they are both very good climbers and I think my strengths compliment them because I’m not the same type of runner. than them, but I think we can really play against each other and get some good results. ”
Brown’s shoulder injury may have interrupted her season, but she was back on the bike and able to train from October, meaning she’s actually likely to start the season. 2022 before where it usually would be. However, while his form of training may have had time to develop, there was a lot of time between races.
His last event was the Olympic time trial in July, but luckily before heading to Europe there are a few Australian races to ease the transition as even though the international events are canceled there are still events. national in progress.
We spoke to Brown on the sunny foreshore of Geelong in December after the launch of the race that will be his first in more than five months, the Lexus of Blackburn Bay Crits. The two-day event on January 8-9, where she will race for the Lexus of Blackburn team, will be an opportunity to test her form ahead of the Australian National Road Championships January 12-16.
First place at the Australian Championships will be the time trial, which she won in 2019, but has finished second behind Sarah Gigante in the past two years. The pair were head and shoulders above their rivals in 2021 but, having faced health issues in 2021, Gigante won’t be defending his title, so Brown looks almost unbeatable. Brown has also been on the podium in road racing for the past two years, but she will be lining up under very different circumstances this year.
As part of Team BikeExchange, Australia’s only women’s world team, Brown has lined up over the past three years with the team that is generally the dominant force in the race, but this year she’s been on the line. will face alone as her only Aussie teammate Chapman won’t. back to racing in Buninyong this time. This means that a different approach is needed.
âIt won’t necessarily be harder, you just have to run in a different way when you’re on your own,â Brown said. âI think I have to be a little more courageous in a way. I will only have to commit myself. Depending on how the race goes, I might have to take bigger risks.
After the national championships, attention will then turn to the Santos Festival of Cycling, with a four-day National Road Series event held from January 23-26 to replace the usual international event, which was canceled for a second year in amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During this race, she will lead a young national team, Team Garmin Australia, before returning to Europe and settling in her new team FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope.
Brown said although she doesn’t have her exact schedule yet, she could start with February’s four-stage Setmana Ciclista Valenciana as a warm-up before the cobblestone classics where her main targets will likely be Flanders, where she came third. in 2021, and the second edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes. So the next big thing is the Tour de France Women, a huge event for everyone, but especially for a French team, and it’s a race where Brown has said she will target stages.
This will be quickly followed by the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in early August before September offers the rare opportunity to compete in the home world championships in Wollongong, Australia. Brown said that since full routes, lap details and elevation gain details had yet to be released, it was unclear exactly what the route – which crosses the coast before to travel a street circuit and a loop with an ascent of Mount Keira – would bring.
âFrom the information we have, I think it will be a Classic style race. There’s that longer climb, which is going to work a bit on the attrition in the race and then I expect it to be a bit more punchy towards the end, but it depends on how it all lines up. . But based on the information I have, I think this will be a suitable course for me.
“But, we have to wait and see and also I have to juggle the time trial and road racing so that more information comes out, we can make a better plan around it.”
There may still be some uncertainty around Brown’s exact timeline and plans, especially without all the details of the world being revealed, but there is one thing there is no doubt about.
âIt will be a year filled with a lot of great things,â Brown said.