Team BikeExchange star Grace Brown is a late entrant for the Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool, with one of the best riders in the world adding lustre to an already stacked field of top-quality riders.
On Saturday, the Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool will beamed around the world with the SBS Cycling Central Facebook page hosting a livestream of the last 100 kilometres of the legendary race. Brown remembers the old days when you could only watch the race live in person.
Now a star of the professional peloton, Brown used to just be a kid from Camperdown, watching the oldest, longest and toughest race in Australia go by from the roadside.
“I remember the event being a big deal as a kid when it used to pass through my childhood town of Camperdown,” said Brown. “We would go out with the cycling club and try to spot the local riders amongst the shattered peloton.
“Although it doesn’t pass through Camperdown anymore, the South West is still a special place for me and it will be very significant to race through the area.”
Fast forward to the present and Brown is one of the most highly regarded riders in world cycling. She’s coming of a 2020 season where she broke out in the second half of the year and took her first big win in Brabantes Pijl, a prestigious Belgian race run over cobbled roads.
Brown showed she’s in good form currently, finishing second in both the road race and the time trial at the recent Australian national championships. She would have been flying out to Europe for the start of the racing season over there, but a last-minute change has seen the local set to line up at her first Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool.
“I have never covered the 267-kilometre distance before,” said Brown, “but I’ve tackled long and intense days on the bike and think that I will get through it okay. I have no doubt I’ll meet some mental demons along the way.”
The women’s race is run within the men’s event, with the top finishers in the women’s event the riders that can adapt to the tactics of the seven-man teams from the National Road Series domestic competition and stick within strong bunches while also keeping a wary eye out for their rivals in the 228-rider field.
“My plan for the women’s race will be to get as far as I can with the strongest group of men I can find,” said Brown. “I know it will be important to keep an eye out for the other women when splits happen throughout the race. I’ll be focusing on conserving as much energy as I can in the wheels and keeping on top of nutrition the whole day.”
The 28-year-old is building a reputation for herself as a rider for the tough races, and despite a late start in the sport after a middle-distance running career she’s regarded as one of the most tactically savvy riders as well. Now going into her third full year as a professional on the road with Australian WorldTour squad, Brown is ready for whatever the race throws at her on Saturday.
“I don’t get as nervous for racing now as I used to,” said Brown, “but I think the unknowns of tackling this distance and all the war stories I’ve heard over the years might put a few butterflies in my stomach!”
The 2021 Powercor Melbourne to Warrnambool will be run on February 13, starting from sponsors Avalon Airport in the morning at 7.50am AEDT and finishing on Raglan Parade Warrnambool with an expected mid-afternoon finish. The race will be streamed live on SBS Cycling Central’s Facebook page with the audio commentary run on 3YB/Coast FM Warrnambool. The last 100 kilometres of the race of the legendary race will be brought to screens all over the world from 11.30am AEDT.