Roger Vaughan / AAP News
Refreshed and enlightened by a mid-year Australian break, road cycling star Grace Brown has grand ambitions for the second half of her season.
The Tokyo Olympian and national champion will ride for her FDJ professional team at the revamped women’s Tour de France from Sunday before competing at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where she will be one of the top Australian cycling gold medal hopes in the time trial.
Then she will be a key member of the national team at the late-September world road championships in Wollongong.
Brown has carried on her strong form from last year, marked by a fourth place in the time trial at the Tokyo Games.
She finished second this year in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and rode strongly for 12th at Paris-Roubaix, before finishing second overall at the British Women’s Tour.
Then the 30-year-old returned to Australia to catch up with family and friends, but also to undertake some crucial reconnaissance.
Brown went to Wollongong to scout the course for the time trial, where she will have strong medal claims, and also look over the road race route.
The Australian women’s road race team will aim to usurp the powerhouse Dutch squad.
Before that, Brown will have a domestique role for FDJ in the July 24-31 women’s Tour de France.
She looks the rider to beat in the Games time trial on August 4, before competing in the August 7 road race.
“It’s all clicking in. I have some big goals. I try to just take one at a time,” she told AAP.
The women’s Tour has struggled for attention and respect over the years alongside the men’s edition, but this year it has a much higher profile and a better route over eight days.
Brown is among several Australians in the stellar field, with Dutch ace Annamiek van Vleuten the favourite.
Brown’s main job will be to support FDJ’s Swiss overall hope Cecilie Ludwig, but she will have her own ambitions as well.
“I will get a bit of a free run in maybe some of the middle stages to have a go at a win,” she said.
“But we’re seeing how that plays out.
“Once we hit the proper, long climbs, I will be in full domestique role.”
Brown is enthused by the strength of the Commonwealth Games team, which should dominate the women’s road race.
“Definitely the time trial, the aim would be to win that,” she said of her Birmingham goals.
“For the road race, it’s a bit tricky because it’s a sprinter’s course. I don’t see the road race as mine to win, necessarily.
“This is one of the strongest teams we’ve had in a while for a championship race – it’s been really cool to see some of the girls who’ve come from more of a track background racing super-well.”