Australia's Grace Brown won huge respect with her close second on debut at the 2020 Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The Australian – once a time trial specialist, now a bona fide classics rider – was the only one of Deignan’s former breakaway companions to chase after the Brit. Brown accelerated away from Marianne Vos, Ellen van Dijk, et al. on the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons and took 50 seconds out of Deignan’s one-minute advantage in just 10km. However, the finish line came just a kilometre or so too soon for the 28-year-old.
She might not have come away with gold, but a first WorldTour podium on her debut Liège-Bastogne-Liége is not to be sniffed at. And it’s not the first time Brown has made the world sit up and take notice. She turned pro with Mitchelton-Scott at the beginning of 2019 and took two big wins in quick succession – a national time trial title followed by a stage victory at the Tour Down Under.
Watch Deignan's winning moment as Liege-Bastogne-Liege serves up another classic
Brown hasn’t climbed onto the top step yet in 2020, but she is growing into one of the most consistently strong riders in the international peloton. With Amanda Spratt and the (formerly?) unstoppable Annemiek van Vleuten in her team, Brown most often finds herself in a supporting role. But she’s really coming into her own in the harder one-day races.
She was the first Mitchelton-Scott rider to finish at La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, 13th behind winner Anna van der Breggen, and today’s best-of-the-rest cements her position as a future classics star.
In fact, the Australian rider was arguably the strongest today. She was put off by neither the dodgy autumn weather nor the cruel climbs, and switched readily from support role to leader just as any hope of a result seemed to be riding away from her team. After bridging from the peloton, she had some time to recover before attacking her formidable company and setting off in pursuit of the race leader. With a deficit of less than 10 seconds going into the final kilometre, it was agonisingly close.
It’s now no secret that Van Vleuten is leaving the Australian outfit after five hugely successful years with the team. With the European champion off to bolster the Movistar squad, there will be a big leadership hole to fill, and with today’s result, Brown has firmly staked her claim. One thing is for sure, her card will be marked in one-day races going forward.