Grace Brown will head into her first Commonwealth Games as Australia’s top-rated rider in the UCI world rankings, but the 29-year-old only began her cycling career in 2015 when injuries forced her to look for a new sport.
“I had a lot of injuries from running and I didn’t get a chance to compete at the level I thought I should,” Brown said.
“I got frustrated with that experience and decided to buy a bike as a few people said to me, including my dad, that I would be good at it.”
From there it was a rapid rise to the top of Australian cycling for the Victorian.
Brown would start with some local club criteriums at St. Kilda Cycling Club before the itch for longer races came along.
“I entered the 2016 National Championships as my first road race and I made it eight laps around before getting cold,” Brown said.
“That day sparked something in me.
“It sparked some motivation as I could see what the top girls in Australia were doing and I felt l could see the series of steps to get there so I wanted to try and get there.”
From there it was a series of quick steps for Brown, who made her national team debut at the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Austria, where she placed 48th in the women’s elite road race.
The following year, Brown grabbed her first national title, taking gold in the individual time trial and had her eyes set on an Olympic debut.
“Leading into the original Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games date, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make the team,” said Brown.
“Only four go and the Olympics was on another level.
“But then I had a breakthrough post lockdown at the end of lockdown, from there I was really confident that I would be on the team, and I guess I’ve carried that confidence through to today.”
A strong 2020 UCI Road World Championships performance in Italy plus a staggering start to 2021 which included Brown’s first world tour win at the Classic Brugge-De Panne and a third-place finish at the Tour des Flandres brought Brown into contention for Tokyo, completing another step in her swift progression to the top of Australian and world cycling.
“It feels like a long time ago that I was in Tokyo and competing there under a much stricter COVID situation,” said Brown.
“I learnt a lot from Tokyo, I think I got every little bit out of myself in that time trial.
“I did not lose confidence, but it was a huge lesson, especially in the road race and dealing with extreme heat.”
After an exceptional start to a year for Brown, it ended on a sour note as the Victorian was forced into shoulder surgery that brought her cycling year to a sudden halt.
This didn’t stop Brown from making moves of the bike, signing with French powerhouse FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope (now FDJ-SUEZ-Futuroscope).
Brown’s first outing in the blue, red and white was an impressive one, regaining the individual time trial Australian title and placing second in the road race.
“I really wanted to get this for FDJ. I think a lot of people were expecting me to win it as well, so it's nice to have that done now. It was a pretty hard race, actually; it didn't come easy. I'm proud of the effort and happy to have the jersey for the year,” Brown said after the time-trial.
Since January, the Tokyo Olympian has continued her never-ending series of steps, climbing her way back up the UCI World Rankings and taking a handful of podiums along the way, most notably placing second at the Women’s Tour by one second.
“It was a real highlight for me as well as a big growth moment,” Brown said.
“I’ve never until that tour targeted general classification and to have your teammates support and believe in you like that, to be giving everything every day for you felt like it gave me a superpower to do things I might normally not do.”
Brown was rewarded for her blistering start to the year with a selection to the Commonwealth Games squad and is excited by the team and the growing strength of women’s cycling abroad.
“Any opportunity to race in the green and gold is special and especially major multi-sport events where the eyes of the country are on you,” Brown said.
“We have an awesome team this year and it seems like women’s cycling is having a bit of a resurgence.
“It’s cool to see the like of Alex Manly come through, I think she’s an amazing rider.
“As a group, I think we can come together really well and pull something special off. We have a mix of track riders, newbies and experienced riders so there is a lot of potential.”
The Australian individual time trial champion has her eyes set on gold and then play her role in the road race.
“I want to win the time trial,” Brown stated.
“I’ve actually been to the course and checked it out as my in-laws live nearby. The time-trial course is cool as it starts in the park and is technical before it becomes undulating and flowy.
“I want to do what I can in the road race to help the team win however the strategy pans out, but I think we can do it.
“It’s pretty flat and you’d expect there to be a sprint, but I think there is opportunity for some breakaways.”
In Australia, you can watch all the cycling from Birmingham 2022 on Seven and 7plus – live, free and in HD.
7plus will be showing up to 30 live and replay channels, so you can follow your favourite events and catch up on highlights. For streaming, visit the 7plus Commonwealth Games Hub. There are specific streaming pages for track cycling, mountain bike and road cycling.
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