Victory For Twice Runner-up Brown

After two runner-up positions in 2020 and 2022, Australia’s Grace Brown finally claimed her first glorious Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes victory on Sunday. The FDJ-Suez rider played her cards exactly as she had four years previously, breaking away midway through the race to play for the win in the final. Lizzie Deignan managed to upset her that day and a powerful trio with Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek), Demi Vollering (Team SD Worx-Protime) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM Racing) seemed poised to do so this year after linking back from the bunch. Yet, on the final sprint in Liège’s Quai des Ardennes, Brown managed to defeat Longo Borghini and Vollering to deservingly raise her arms in victory.

140 riders took the start on the 8th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège Femmes. The 152,9-kilometre ride from Bastogne to Liège was tackled on steady, sunny conditions and against cross-head winds that slowed the riders down. A breakaway attempt by Cofidis’ Spela Kern and Arkéa-Samsic’s Titia Ryo failed to stick ahead of the Côte de Saint-Roch, where Sarah Gigante (AG Insurance-Soudal Team) took off to establish herself solo at the front. Stina Kagevi (Coop-Repsol) went clear from the peloton at kilometre 39, as did Sara Martín (Movistar Team) and Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale) a little further down the road. At the foot of the Côte de Mont-le-Soie, Gigante held a 1’45” gap on Kagevi, 2’20” on the duo behind and 2’55” on a peloton that was about to pick up the pace.

A strong nine-woman group in the lead
Martín and Cadzow overtook Kagevi on the Côte de Wanne, but were quickly reeled in by the bunch before the Côte de Stockeu, atop which Gigante’s lead had plummeted down to 1 minute. It was on this climb and the following descent that an eight-woman group took off with Mischa Bredewold (SD Worx-Protime), Lucinda Brand (Lidl-Trek), Eva van Agt (Visma | Lease a Bike), Élise Chabbey (Canyon//SRAM), Mikayla Harvey (UAE Team ADQ), Grace Brown (FDJ-SUEZ), Flora Perkins (Fenix-Deceuninck) and, again, Cadzow. They linked up with Gigante on the Col du Rosier, where Cofidis’ Julie Bégo set off in pursuit from a bunch where no team took the reins. Five kilometres from the Côte de la Redoute, the nine riders in the lead held a 30” gap on Bégo and 3’00” on the peloton.

Three favourites managed to catch up
Lidl-Trek took on the helm in the bunch ahead of La Redoute. It was on this climb where Chabbey, Cadzow and Brown dropped the rest of her breakaway companions, who were brought back one by one by the peloton. The front trio held a 1 minute gap at the foot of the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek) unleashed a powerful acceleration there – one that only Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime) and Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Canyon//SRAM) could match. They joined the head of the race with 9 kilometres to go, and had a real scare with 7 left to race, as Brown missed a left-hand turn and almost crashed. 

Despite the Canyon//SRAM riders’ repeated efforts to go clear, the six women in the lead made it together to the final straight in Liège’s Quai des Ardennes. Niewiadoma led out with Longo Borghini on wheel two. For a moment, the Italian national champion seemingly had the win in her pocket, yet Brown managed to overtake her in the final 100 metres to claim her victory. The result just showed how quickly the luck can turn in a race, when Brown switched from almost crashing to topping the podium within 7 kilometres!

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