Australian Grace Brown clearly went into the time trial with a lot of dedication and focus, impressing everyone watching the women’s time trial at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The other Australian representative, Sarah Gigante, was 11th on the testing 22.1 km course, showing that she’s more than come back from a nasty crash during the European spring.
The 29-year-old Brown blitzed her way through the early sections of the course that contained the five kilometre climb, going through the intermediate time check just over six seconds off the fastest time of eventual winner Annemiek van Vleuten.
The cameras didn’t often find the Camperdown local out on course, by it appeared from the timechecks that much of her energy went into those early sections and trying to compete for the gold medal as Marlen Reuser (Switzerland) and Anna van der Breggen (Netherlands) reversed previous deficits to Brown to just keep her out of the medals. Van der Breggen was the final finisher, pushing Brown off the podium spot by a scant margin of seven seconds.
It was nonetheless a brilliant ride by Brown, who has shown with this performance, her fifth in the world championships and recent third at the Giro Rosa that she’s one of the top riders in the time trial discipline. She was less than a week off feeling comfortable following a crash at the recent Giro Rosa, the shoulder injury from the fall on Stage 8 impacting her preparation for the Olympics.
“I could see Anna van der Breggen coming towards the line, and the time counting up towards me,” said Brown. “It was so close, but she’s a phenomenal rider and I’m not surprised that she rode ahead of me.”
Brown described the effort she went through out on the road.
“Full of pain, but I think I got every little bit out of myself, and (had) nothing left to spare, so I’m happy with my result despite being so close to the podium.
“I was disappointed on Sunday, this lets me leave the Games with a full heart.”
Sarah Gigante also represented Australia in fine fashion, setting the fastest time from her early starting position and holding the hot seat for quite some time. Gigante did the reverse of Brown, going for more of a negative split strategy that saw her recovering time on her rivals all the way to the finish line.
The 20-year-old eventually finished in 11th position, a great finish given her age and experience, but also after coming off a nasty crash during Fleche Wallonne early in the season where she fractured her tibia, collarbone and elbow.
”I couldn’t have done anything more,” said Gigante. “I gave it everything today. The whole lead-up, considering I had a really bad crash three months ago, breaking my leg and my collar bone and elbow. I did not come here to come 11th, but it’s everything I had, so I’m proud.
“I was in the hot seat for a long time because I went early, but I saw the intermediate time splits and then I saw how far ahead they all were, but it was nice to be in the hot seat.
Winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) was on a mission following her silver medal in the road race, scorching through the time trial course to the finish on Fuji International Speedway and claim her first Olympics gold medal after so many close calls in the past.
Van Vleuten was just a few days removed from saluting the win during the Olympics road race, only to find that Anna Kiesenhofer (Austria) was still up the road from the early breakaway, instead her finish was second. That looked a bitter pill to swallow for the star cyclist, and she appeared to pour all that effort into the time trial today, setting the fastest mark at every check point and coming into the finish with a time that wouldn’t be seriously challenged.
Marlen Reusser was second, 56 seconds behind the peerless Dutch woman, van der Breggen slotted into third, a minute and two seconds behind, with Brown at a minute and nine seconds down. Gigante finished two minutes and 48 seconds behind van Vleuten, sandwiched between Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) and Leah Kirchmann (Canada), fine company for the young Australian.
By Jamie Finch-Penninger