Twice a runner-up in the finale of the spring Classics season, Grace Brown backed herself early by going on the attack in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Riding a tactically savvy race, the 31-year-old outsprinted Elisa Longo Borghini and Demi Vollering to claim a Classic victory!


By Rob Arnold (Photos: Billy Clusters, via ASO)



Making the selection in a race like Liège-Bastogne-Liège can be a gamble. If you go too early on such an undulating course the energy reserves can be depleted before what is a surprisingly long finishing straight. And then, even if you are in the front group as it sweeps around the final turn, it takes power as well as cunning – and confidence – to take out the sprint.

Grace Brown has learned a few things about #LBL over the years and she rounded out what she describes as a “tough spring” with a perfectly timed surge to the finish line.

Passing Elisa Longo Borghini in the dying metres, while still holding off the defending champion Demi Vollering, is no easy task but the Australian from FDJ-Suez managed it in style.

“It’s been a tough spring for me and then this week, finally, I started feeling like my old self,” said Brown after becoming the first Australian woman to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“I said to the team, ‘I feel good for Liège…’ I have good memories already here so I’m really happy to pull it off today.”

Second in 2020 and 2022 (behind Lizzie Deignan and Annemiek van Vleuten, respectively) it’s understandable that Brown believed there was some unfinished business to tend to. She was prepared to take an early gamble but also ensure that there was still something left to finish off the job if everything went well.

She’s known for her time trialling abilities while other riders are, in theory at least, better suited to the succession of climbs of the 153km race that rounds out the spring Classics. Once over the last of the longer, steeper climbs – Roche au Faucons (with around 15km to go) – the Australian’s confidence grew.

“I felt like I was on my limit on the climbs towards the end but once I survived Roche au Faucon I thought, ‘It’s on!’”

Sarah Gigante, the winner of the first round of the 2024 WorldTour, was on the attack early in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

Good form and experience help in a contest like this. But when the weather is as challenging as it has been for the final races in the Ardennes – ie. cold or colder – there’s more to consider. Staying warm and upright is essential. Towards the end of the race Brown jettisoned her black rain jacket suggesting she’d coped with the conditions before a mishap almost spoiled her efforts.

She was about to exit a roundabout as her elite selection closed in on the finish when she locked up her rear wheel, prompting a correction that included a considerable squeeze of her other lever. The front brake grabbed the rotor and suddenly Brown’s sliding rear wheel lifted into the air and a crash seemed inevitable… only that the smackdown never came.

A close call for the winner of #LBL2024… Grace Brown locked up her back wheel then, while correcting the slide, her front brake grabbed and the 31-year-old almost crashed.

“I locked up and almost crashed,” said Brown of the heart-in-mouth moment, “but thankfully saved it and caught back onto the group. So, then I just had to calm myself and be patient for the final.”

On the streets of Liège the front selection comprised six riders: Brown (FDJ-Suez), Vollering (SD Worx), Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek), Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale), Elise Chabby (Canyon-SRAM) and the winner from the previous Classic, La Flèche Wallonne, Kasia Niewadoma (also Canyon-SRAM).

Gaps appeared as the sprint began but the long final straight allowed Brown to consider her rivals and when to really hit the ‘Go’ button. As Longo Borghini had the line in sight, Brown found the extra speed required to pass the Italian champion on her right and then it was time to celebrate. A two-handed salute and a broad, satisfied smile.

It is another Classic victory for an Australian, the first by a woman in a race that is often compared to a rollercoaster because of the persistence of the climbs. It was quite a ride by Brown on a day full of emotions.

The women’s WorldTour of 2024 began with an Australian win, Sarah Gigante first on home soil with a stunning climb up Old Willunga Hill at the end of the TDU in January. And now, after the 14th race of the series, there’s another Australian winner.

The Classics season has ended. Soon it will be La Vuelta España Femenina and a series of other stage races… and Brown will be satisfied knowing that she was up against the best in the world and capable of beating them in style.



– By Rob Arnold