World Championships silver medallist and Commonwealth Games champion Grace Brown has returned to her home state of Victoria and confirmed she’ll race in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race’s 2023 Deakin University Elite Women’s Race.
Set for Saturday 28 January, the world’s best cyclists will descend on Geelong and the Surf Coast as the race returns for the first time since 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event comes as Australia enters a golden decade of sport, with the nation set to host at least 10 major sporting events over the next 10 years, including the Olympic Games in Brisbane, the Rugby World Cup, the FIFA Women’s World Cup and Victoria’s Commonwealth Games.
In partnership with Deakin University, the announcement was made at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus alongside 2009 Road World Champion and Race Founder Cadel Evans and Associate Professor Natalie Saunders.
Brown is the first cyclist to confirm her participation, with her commitment following a triumphant victory in January’s 2022 Time Trial of the National Road Championships. She continued her fine form in September, winning silver in the Time Trial at the UCI World Road Championships in Wollongong.
Raised in the Victorian town Camperdown in the Otway Ranges, north of the Great Ocean Road and a 90-minute drive from Geelong, the race will be a homecoming for Brown, who has spent the best part of the past six years riding in Europe.
Brown said she was thrilled to be back riding in the world-renowned event after a two-year hiatus.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to race here so it’s exciting that we can be back and race quite close to some of my local roads,” Brown said at the launch event on Tuesday.
“It’s pretty cool that the international peloton will be back on Australian shores this summer and showing off some really great racing for the Australian public. It’s also cool how the public can participate in the TAC People’s Ride before the Women’s event, and I definitely recommend if people are going to take on that challenge that they should stick around and watch the pros.”
Speaking of the course, Brown said she’s looking forward to imparting some of her local wisdom to her international teammates that will join her for the race in January.
“I think one of the big things down this part of Victoria is the wind – we have some pretty good breezes coming through the coast here so my advice [to my teammates] would be to prepare for that. Coming into the final kilometres we’ve got some great punchy little climbs so I think it’s an awesome course that always brings out really strong riders.”
Brown, who switched teams from Australian-based Mitchelton-Scott to the French-owned FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope at the beginning of the 2022 season has had a year to remember, but admits she still has unfinished business when she rolls out of the start line in Geelong next year.
“I’ve had a really great season in 2022, but the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is a win that I’ve yet to achieve, so I’m hoping that I can start my 2023 season off with a high and aim for a result in this race – I think it’s a course that is suited to me so I’ve always had it at the back of my mind that I’d like to win it one day, and hope that this next edition will be that opportunity.”
Brown was joined by 2009 Road World Champion and Race Founder Cadel Evans, who was delighted to see the return of the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race, which will once again be a WorldTour sanctioned event in 2023.
“I’m so happy that we can look forward to welcoming the very best female riders in the world back to the Geelong and Surf Coast regions for the return of the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race, Evans said.
“To be able to announce a rider of Brown’s calibre is exciting, and we can’t wait to welcome more riders in the coming weeks.”
Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulos said:
“The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is an incredible weekend of cycling showcasing the iconic landscape of Geelong and the Surf Coast.
“With tens of thousands of visitors making their way to the region during the event, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race is a win for local businesses and for local jobs.”
Deakin University, an Elite Women’s Race partner since 2016, has a proud history of commitment and support for women’s sport.
Associate Professor Natalie Saunders, Co-Director of the University’s Centre for Sport Research, said the event’s return would again put the spotlight on women’s cycling and draw spectators and competitors to Geelong’s iconic Surf Coast.
“Deakin lives and breathes a love of sport and our partnership with the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race as naming rights partner for this event cements our commitment to women’s sport,” Associate Professor Saunders said.
“At Deakin, we strive to support female athletes, from grassroots to elite participants, through research conducted at our Centre for Sport Research, which aims to improve the health and performance of people and organisations across sport. Our goal is to inspire more women to be involved in sport at every level both on and off the course.”
Save the Date
The 2023 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race will be held from January 27 – January 29, with the Deakin University Elite Women’s Race set for the Saturday (January 28).