Grace Brown takes a well deserved solo victory at the women’s Brabantse Pijl 2020 after attacking with 15km to go and then holding off the chasers to raise her arms at the line.
How it happened
The race was flat out from the start with Lotte Kopecky (Lotto-Soudal) caught out as she had a puncture just before the flag dropped and had to chase for around five kilometres to get back on.
No break was allowed to go all day with a couple of little moves coming after an hour of racing, but it was controlled by Team Sunweb, Trek-Segafredo, Mitchelton-Scott and Canyon-SRAM.
Sunweb were the team that kept the pace high as they tried to use a small section of crosswind, which did put a couple of small groups of riders out of the back but it didn’t last as the race went into a few towns that had no wind.
Moments after that, Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) abandoned but looked in good spirits, as she is most likely saving herself as she focusses on the cyclocross season.
The peloton entered the finishing circuit and the pace was upped again, Trek and Sunweb looked to stretch it out again as they his the cobbled climb of the Hertstraat.
As they got onto the finishing climb of the Schavei, Katia Ragusa (Astana) and Spanish champion Mavi Garcia (Alé BTC Ljubljana) went clear and held on for a lap until attacks behind including Grace Brown.
The peloton split and a large group of favourites got away but it was Alé BTC Ljubljana who brought it back with Eugenia Bujak pulling former winner and Italian champion Marta Bastianelli back into the game.
With 30km to go, US champion, Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo), put in a testing attack but couldn’t get away, this then set up Lauren Stephens (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) to launch a solo move.
Stephens managed to pull out 30 seconds on the chasing peloton but the attacks came on the Schavei from Brown yet again as she dragged a small group back across to Stephens but they didn’t quite make it as the chasers looked at each other.
Floortje Mackaji, Elisa Balsamo (Valcar) and Kopecky manage to stay with Brown but Stephens opened up the gap again as the peloton brought that chase group back.
Brown then went solo with 18km to go as she tried to catch the lone leader, Stephens. The Australian rider managed to pull out a gap very quickly on the peloton and closed in on Stephens almost immediately.
Stephens then was dropped on the Hertstraat and was left in no-mans-land as the peloton was splitting up behind with Sunweb on the front again, bringing Stephens back.
The Moskesstraat climb then came and this cobbled climb saw an attack by Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb), but she didn’t close down as much as she would’ve liked with Brown holding a 25 second lead.
Mackaij joined her team-mate up the road and they started to work, behind Stephens, Kopecky, Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb) and Winder chased as well.
But no-one was catching Brown as she pulled her gap out to 40 seconds turning a massive gear on the flat before the final ascent of the Schavei as Mackaij and Lippert were unable to close the gap.
Brown took the win ahead of Lippert and Mackaij with Kopecky leading in a reduced peloton.
Branbantse Pijl 2020: Sint-Kwintens-Lennik to Overijse (121.9km)
1. Grace Brown (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
2. Liane Lippert (Ger) Team Sunweb
3. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team Sunweb
4. Lotte Kopecky (Bel) Lotto-Soudal Ladies
5. Emilia Fahlin (Swe) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitane Futuroscope
6. Rasa Leleivyė (Lit) Aromitalia Vaiano
7. Maria Giulia Confalonieri (Ita) Ceratizit-WNT Pro Cycling
8. Katia Ragusa (Ita) Astana Womens Team
9. Mavi Garcia (Esp) Alé BTC Ljubljana
10. Lauren Stephens (USA) Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank
Time gaps TBC