Feature: New rider - Who is Grace Brown?Wed 6 Mar 2019
At the 2019 Australian road race championships Mitchelton-SCOTT's latest signing, 26-year-old Grace Brown, quickly made a name for herself by pulling on the elusive green and gold jersey after claiming the time trial championship title.
It was an incredible feat for the first event of the season and the first race with her new team, but what is even more impressive is the fact that Brown only took up cycling three-years earlier.
So who is she, where did she come from?
The rider from Camperdown has had a phenomenally fast pathway into the sport, coming from a running background, to transforming into a national champion and riding for Australian’s only women’s WorldTour team, in less than four years.
“I used to run, basically from primary school, all through school until university. I was a middle distance 800-1500metre/cross-country runner but I had heaps of injuries. I had lots of stress fractures and it was really frustrating and I could never really get to where I thought I should be able to get to. My dad was always telling me he thought I would make a good cyclist, and thought I had a lot of power in my legs. So I called it quits and bought a bike in 2015.
“I raced nationals as a runner but I never placed at nationals and usually I would do just two track sessions a week with a coach and then just running at home, so it was never as structured as my cycling training now, so I guess it was pretty amateur.
"I never planned to go and ride in the WorldTour, I was just really competitive and wanted to keep getting better and better. I was never really into cycling, I didn’t really know much about it, there were some years I used to watch the Tour de France but that's it.
“I just started riding and started setting my next goals a little bit higher. I actually joined a group of ex-triathletes and would do bunchies. I thought they were the best cyclists in the world and I wanted to be as good as them, they all thought I was crazy and would ask what I was training for. But I just wanted to get better.”
From runner to racer:
As a late starter in cycling, everything has been a steep learning curve for Brown, from getting a bike and racing in Australian domestic-level races, before displaying her raw talent and being selected for the Australian development team and later to ride with Mitchelton-SCOTT.
“By the time I actually started racing I was past junior or under-23 level and I just did the domestic national road series. After a couple of months, I won a Tour and I got selected for the Australian Development Team to race in Europe in 2017. I went over of course and we raced through the summer for about 10weeks," Brown explained.
“I thought it was like running, just an endurance sport but once I got into it I realised it is actually very tactical and a lot more ‘argy bargy’ elbows out and that has probably been the hardest part, to build your skills in such a short amount of time.
“When I first came to Europe I thought I was never going to be able to be at the level and thought it wasn’t for me. I was getting dropped and it was just horrible. I don’t know when it really switched but finally when I came back to Australia I got a lot more confident.
“It was in 2018 when I came third at the national road race and fifth at the Tour Down Under when I actually started to believe I could race at the WorldTour level. When I got third at nationals, I really was surprised. I had been training for the time trial and kind of stuffed it up and didn’t do as well as I had hoped, so the road race result really blew me away a bit.
“I also did well that year at La Course and also got selected for the UCI Road World Championships for Australia, and started talking to this team and so it was a really great season for me and a fast progression.”
Joining the WorldTour:
As a new rider in the team, Brown has quickly settled in amongst her fellow Australians. Along with her national TT title, the 26-year-old also claimed a stage victory at the Tour Down Under - a dream way to start off the new year, espeically in the team's home race.
“I really wanted to prove I was a good time trial rider and I trained pretty hard for the national championships and mentally prepared well," Brown recalled. "Being on this team I wanted to prove my position and not just be a dead weight."
“After winning the nationals I was in really good form for the Tour Down Under and the two stages before the one I won, I really buried myself for the team and Martin Vestby (Sport Director) and Amanda Spratt both recognised that, I guess they were really impressed with me and what I was doing which was cool.
"Martin sent us a video of the finish of the stage from previous years and in my head I thought it looked like a really good finish for me. In the meeting before we discussed I would be leading Gracie Elvin out but with an all-out lead-out and if she could come over me then we could get first and second.
“I was so excited that I went way too early and did like an 800metre sprint but it paid off. I think that was more special than winning the time trial, there are more things that you need to pull off to win a road race.”
“Looking to the year ahead, it is always quite hard to plan and set goals now because I don’t know how I will cope with all the racing and whether I will be good in the Classics to begin with.
"I obviously have to prove myself more before I get opportunities to win things so I want to help the team as much as possible for the bigger goals we have throughout the year. We will see...”
Date of Birth: 7th July 1992 (26)
Place of Birth: Camperdown, Victoria
Photos courtesy of Kramon.