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Days after stepping on to her first World Tour podium, Grace Brown has won the Belgian 1.1 one-day Brabantse Pijl. The Mitchelton Scott rider finished the race solo, winning by 47 seconds.
The rest of the podium rode in alone as well, with Team Sunweb taking second and third with Liane Lippert and Floortje Mackaij four seconds later. Behind them, the Belgian National Champion Lotte Kopecky won the bunch sprint for fourth.
How it happened
The “Spring” Classics continued, and with the cancelation of the third of the Ardennes, the Amstel Gold race, every race day counts. It was a stacked peloton that lined up in Sint-Kwintens-Lennik for the Brabantse Pijl, although with the Dutch National Time Trial Championships slotted for the same day a few key riders were missing, the World Champion Anna van der Breggen and the European Champ Annemiek van Vleuten among them. (Sidenote: the Dutch ITT champs were canceled.)
Brabantse Pijl is one of the mid-week classics, won in 2019 by Sofie de Vuyst of Parkhotel Valkenburg, and in 2018 by Alé Cipollini’s Marta Bastianelli.
Similar to many of its counterparts, Brabantse Pijl is littered with short and punchy climbs. This year’s edition of the event ended with two laps of a circuit containing the cobbled Moskesstraat climb, 400 meters long, and topping out at 14.9% gradient. Only 11 kilometers separated the Moskesstraat and the finish line.
A few attacks flew in the early kilometers of the race, but no one got much daylight until Mavi Garcia of Alé BTC Ljubljana and Katia Ragusa of Astana managed to get way around 45 km to go. The two had up to 42 seconds but didn’t stay away for long, however, their attempts set off some more attacks from the peloton. The pace strung out the peloton and allowed Lauren Stephens of Team Tibco-SVB to slip away with roughly 30 km to go.
With 17km to go Grace Brown went from the peloton, across to Stephens, and with zero hesitation, passed the American rider and continued the final race to the finish on her own.
Brown was able to get a 23-second advantage over the peloton pretty quickly and behind the Australian rider Liane Lippert struck out on her own to chase down the leader in the final 9 km. As more of a gap formed between Lippert and a chasing group, Floortje Mackaij jumped ahead to join her teammate in chasing down Brown.
The two Sunweb riders were unable to catch Brown and the Mitchelton Scott rider remained alone all the way to the finish, raising her arms with a huge smile on her face for one of the biggest wins of her career so far.
1. Grace Brown MTS, 3:03:38
2. Liane Lippert SUN, +0:47
3. Floortje Mackaij SUN, +0:51
4. Lotte Kopecky LSL, +1:19
5. Emilia Fahlin FDJ, st
6. Rasa Leleivyté VAI, st
7. Maria Guilia Confalonieri WNT, st
8. Katia Ragusa ASA, st
9. Mavi Garcia ALE, st
10. Lauren Stephens TIB, st