Brown braves a long solo break as bad luck ends chances in finale of Ronde van Drenthe

Sun 17 Mar 2019

Australian Grace Brown has put in a brave performance at the UCI WorldTour race Ronde van Drenthe today, attacking solo for almost 50km in trying conditions in Holland.

The 26-year-old, in her first season with Mitchelton-SCOTT, was eventually caught inside the final 15km after a wrong turn, whilst an extra stroke of bad luck saw Gracie Elvin puncture shortly after to rule her out of contention as Marta Bastianelli (Team Vitru Cycling) took the victory.

Brave Brown breaks free:
A lull in obstacles on approach to the first ascent of the VAMberg saw racing regroup.  Setting the pace up the climb, and eventually cresting on the front, Brown rode herself off the front of the group.

Initially, there was a reluctance from teams behind and her lead grew to over one minute, despite the wind again splitting the peloton apart. 

With teammates Roy and Elvin guarding the first chase group, Brown’s advantage grew to two-minutes with 30km remaining.

An unlucky conclusion:
As Brown navigated the final sectors of cobbles, the intensity of the group behind built, and her advantage began to reduce as teammate Roy lost touch. 

Unfortunately, a wrong turn was what eventually ended Brown’s day as the chase group flew past her into the final 15km. 

To add injury to insult, immediately after the catch a puncture to Elvin took her out of contention as the race entered the final 13km. As the team rode on to the line ahead the victory was contested with Bastianelli taking the spoils. 

Grace Brown:
“The weather threw everything at us today, it was really cold and raining a lot of the time, with strong wind and even some hail! The cobbled sections were super muddy.”

“The second time over the VAMberg at about 100km mark we wanted to reduce the peloton by putting pressure on over the climb. I found that I had a bit of a gap on the top, so even though it wasn’t our plan we decided to work with it to keep Gracie and Roy in a good position.”

“I never actually thought that I would be able to make the distance. Even when it got out to two minutes, I was tiring a lot and I knew that the peloton would eventually close the gap. But I just kept going knowing that it was a good situation for the team.”

“The peloton were only a few seconds off me when I went the wrong way at a roundabout. I’m not exactly sure what happened there!”

“Gracie’s puncture was super misfortunate. She was in a great position on the last cobbled sector and had good legs. It looked like we were going to pull something off. Hopefully she can take confidence towards the next races despite the bad luck, because she’s obviously in awesome form at the moment.”

Martin Vestby:
“The team rode perfectly and it’s just some bad luck. As a team, it was a big step up from Friday. Everyone was really on top of it today, we were sitting there with four riders in the front group.

“Even if it was a bit of a suicide attempt for Grace, at least it makes the ride for Roy and Gracie a lot easier and I think a lot of teams were surprised by her strength.

"Gracie has some great form and I have a feeling that she would have been in the mix but that’s racing and we’ll never know. She entered the last cobbled section (where she punctured) in third position and we’d already spoken on the radio that she would attack directly coming out of it. 

“We set it up really well, it’s a bit sad it ended like it did but it gives us some confidence that we can control some races and we just need to take that into the Classics to come.”

Ronde van Drenthe – Results:
1. Marta Bastianelli (Team Virtu Cycling) 4:24:14
2. Chantal Blaak (Boels – Dolmans) ST
3. Ellen van Vijk (Trek-Segafredo) ST
14. Sarah Roy (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +1:15

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.