Breakaway gamble pays off for Grace Brown at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Australian proved to be the strongest in a sprint from a small six-rider group having spent most of the day in the breakaway

Clock03:05, Monday 22nd April 2024
Grace Brown celebrates after winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège

© Getty Images

Grace Brown celebrates after winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Despite having twice finished second at the race, in 2020 and 2022, Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ) started Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège as an outside bet. The Australian rider was bumped down the list of pre-race favourites amid a strong line-up of riders, not least defending champion Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime), Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM).

It was this outsider tag that gave Brown the breathing space to enter the day’s breakaway, a move that paid off when she found herself in the leading group of six riders heading into the finish.

That group consisted of the trio of pre-race favourites who had bridged across to the remnants of the day’s breakaway - including Brown, Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale) and Elise Chabbey (Canyon-SRAM) - with only eight kilometres remaining. By that point there was no climbing left, leaving a scenario Brown had hoped for when she gambled on making the breakaway, a small group finish.

Read more: Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Grace Brown sprints to big victory after day in breakaway

As it proved, it was a worthy gamble that secured the biggest victory of Brown’s career as she outpowered Longo Borghini and Vollering in the sprint to the line.

“I think this is now officially my favourite race of the year,” Brown said after the finish. “It’s been special having two second places here, and I always dreamt that I could win it if I came in the front group.

“It’s always a gamble when you go early and you’re in the break for a long time. You never feel fresh coming into the final, but it was just enough to make it over Roche-aux-Faucons and be there in the front group, so I’m happy that it all worked out.”

It very nearly didn’t work out. Having successfully made the group that would contest the finish, Brown’s hopes nearly came unstuck with 6.8km remaining when she misjudged the exit from a roundabout, leading to a brief off-road foray.

“Just before the final descent, I locked up a bit on a corner and didn’t quite make it around, so that was slightly stressful trying to get back to the bunch. I’m glad I didn’t crash, but in the end it was okay.”

Read more: ‘I had good legs but I didn’t use them’ – sprint costs Vollering and Longo Borghini in Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Having survived the close call and quickly chased back onto the lead group, Brown and her rivals turned their attention to the finish. Lacking the firepower in a sprint, Niewiadoma was the first to strike out on a long-range attack, but Longo Borghini followed closely behind and it was the Italian who struck out for the line first.

Her odds appeared to be good as she stole a march but Brown, surfing the slipstreams, produced a strong kick to reel her in and claim an impressive win that is not only significant for her own palmares, but also that of her FDJ-SUEZ team.

“There was a lot of attacks in the final and I followed some, but then you also have to gamble a little bit. For some reason I always have this sort of slo-mo patience in a sprint final like that, so I just waited and then I came with speed and it was enough to win the race, so pretty cool,” Brown continued, analysing the finish.

“The team’s super excited. This is our first Monument win, so it’s a bit of a history-marker in the team. I’m super happy that I could do it.”

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