Grace Brown had a long wait in the time trial hot seat, and a long time to contemplate what it might be like to win a UCI Road World Championships on home soil. The Australian fans were also relishing the prospect, already chasing autographs from their local hope before the winner had been decided.
It was no surprise when Brown took to the hot seat, given she was the tenth rider and first serious contender to start. What was a surprise, though, was when perennial favourite Annemiek van Vleuten came through 19 riders later and wasn’t even close to Brown. The dream scenario of a home victory for the rider and fans then looked far more likely to become a reality.
“It was a roller coaster of emotions up there,” said Brown of her time in the hot seat. “Initially, Annemiek van Vleuten was the really top time triallist to hit the course and I saw she obviously didn’t have her best day out there and it was quite a difference between my time and hers at a lot of the checkpoints.”
The world’s number one-ranked rider, who has twice won the World title in the discipline and Olympic Games gold, finished the 34.2km time trial a minute and a half back from Brown.
“That sort of started this feeling of hope that maybe I was on an absolute flyer but then obviously the last two riders, [Marlen] Reusser and [Ellen] van Dijk, came through the first checkpoint ahead of me and from there it was a nervous journey on the hot seat,” Brown said.
A journey in the top slot that didn’t end right until defending champion Van Dijk rolled over the line of the course which started and finished in central Wollongong. The Dutch rider beat Brown by 12.7 seconds, with a final time of 44:28.60, while Swiss rider Reusser came third, more than 41 seconds behind Van Dijk.
“My goal was to be on the podium and my dream was to win the race,” Brown told the post time trial media conference. “So I achieved my goal and I can still aim towards that dream.
“It would have been amazing to win on home soil but it was still a really special day so I am satisfied.”
Satisfied, with her performance and first podium at the Road World Championships, but certainly still looking for more as the women’s elite road race looms.
“It’s made me hungry to be so close to the rainbow jersey,” said Brown. “It’s a bit of a big goal to go for both time trial and road race but I honestly think I can have a good road race as well, so I am optimistic. But I am going to celebrate this first and slowly work toward the road race for next Saturday.”