Grace Brown grabs biggest cycling win ahead of Olympics

Roger VaughanAAP
Grace Brown (c) beams on the podium after winning the Leige-Bastogne-Liege cycling classic. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconGrace Brown (c) beams on the podium after winning the Leige-Bastogne-Liege cycling classic. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Australian cycling star Grace Brown has claimed the biggest win of her career, winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic ahead of the Paris Olympics.

The 31-year-old Melbourne rider was already a medal favourite for the individual time trial at Paris and her win at Liege underscores Brown as a threat in the Olympic road race as well.

She is the first Australian woman to win the Belgian race nicknamed La Doyenne, which has had a women's race since 2017.

Simon Gerrans is the only Australian to take out the men's Liege-Bastogne-Liege race, one of the five one-day cycling 'monuments', in 2017.

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Brown (FDJ-Suez) had finished runner-up at Liege twice, in 2020 and 2022.

But her triumph on Sunday nearly didn't happen, with Brown lucky not to crash when she missed a corner with about 7km left.

"There's something special about this race that brings out the best in me," Brown posted on Instagram.

"I really can't describe how big this feels right now!! It's been a difficult spring, but today puts it all behind."

It is easily Brown's best result so far this year in Europe and her first win since she overcame a back niggle to claim the Australian time trial championship for the fourth time in January.

Brown beat an elite field, outsprinting Italian ace Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) at the finish, while Dutch defending champion and two-time winner Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) was third.

Fellow Australian Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal) made a solo break 15km into the 152.9km race and she stayed clear until 92.9km, when Brown was among eight riders who joined her in the lead.

Longo Borghini and Vollering then came to the front for the six-rider finish, with Brown timing her sprint perfectly.

"I felt like on my limit on the climbs towards the end, but once I survived ... I thought 'it's on'. So good," Brown said.

Australia's road cycling stocks for Paris look strong after the big European spring races.

Michael Matthews finished runner-up at Milan-Sanremo and was controversially relegated from third place at the Tour of Flanders.

Brown finished fourth in the time trial at the Tokyo Olympics and has finished runner up in the event at the last two world championships.

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