Australian Grace Brown rode to her first WorldTour podium today in her debut appearance at Liège–Bastogne–Liège after a heroic late race chase.
The 28-year-old set off in pursuit of the lone leader Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) on the final climb of the day and got within a handful of seconds of closing the gap before just running out of road.
Fast and Wet
Despite the wet conditions, it was a rapid start to the race with the peloton up on the predicated fastest schedule after 50km of racing. Several splits opened up in the early stages, but the bunch remained together with 80km remaining.
It wasn’t long before the race came alive as a strong group of eight riders attacked clear of the pack and opened up an advantage of around one-minute with 50km to go. Mitchelton-SCOTT initially missed the move, but Brown jumped across solo on the Cote de la Vecquée to join the leaders.
Fresh attacks were then launched on La Redoute as Deignan jumped away from the leading group over the top of the climb. Meanwhile, behind the peloton had broken down with a small select group edging ahead with former winner Annemiek van Vleuten amongst them.
With no cooperation in the chase group, Deignan stretched her advantage out to one minute before Brown had seen enough and attacked on the Roche-aux-Faucons. The former Australian time trial champion quickly began to eat into the advantage of the lone leader and the gap was down to 32-seconds with 12km to go.
The race then turned into a pursuit race as the time gap continued to fall on the run towards the finish. With three kilometres remaining there was just 12-seconds between the leading duo, but despite closing in rapidly, Brown just ran out of road with Deignan in her sights as they crossed the line.
“About halfway through the race there was a quite hard section and technical as well. A break of eight went up the road and we weren’t represented in that, so we started by trying to bring it back, but the gap wasn’t closing. So, I decided to bridge across to the break.
“Lizzie Deignan attacked on La Redoute and got a gap and then I went on the final climb and tried to bridge to Lizzie but didn’t quite make it in the end. Part of your head is like ‘ah I can’t do it’, then the other part is saying; ‘you’re so close, you just need to push harder’.
“It was a real time trial and I know that I’m a stronger time triallist than Lizzie Deignan, but it was hard when the majority of road left was downhill, you have to put out a lot of power to gain anything there. Bittersweet, but really excited to have my first WorldTour podium.”
Alejandro Gonzalez-Tablas (Sports Director):
“We came up to the steep climbs that we had halfway through the race and we came out of there and we’d missed the break. We should have been there. We were chasing and we were working, but we didn’t see a great chance to make it back.
“So, we decided to send Grace across, she was one of the strongest in the race. In two kilometres she closed almost a one-minute gap on the climb. From there she was just working with the group and we tried to control from the back on La Redoute with Annemiek in the groups chasing.
“We knew on La Redoute it was a bit too hard for Grace, so we decided to wait with the group and then attack on the last climb. It was a bit too late, but anyway, it was a really good ride.
“It was the plan at the start of the race to give Grace the chance to go as deep as possible in the race and it was good to see that she can be there in the mix in races like this.”
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.