Grace Brown aims for Paris Olympics time-trial gold

Grace Brown shrugged off a back injury to claim her fourth Australian time-trial championship.

Grace Brown shrugged off a back injury to claim her fourth Australian time-trial championship. Photo: Getty

Grace Brown is aiming for a historic Olympic cycling gold medal in Paris, buoyed by a string of world-class time-trial results.

Brown won her fourth national championship in the event on Thursday, overcoming a back injury to hold off an impressive challenge from emerging time-trial rider Brodie Chapman.

The 31-year-old Victorian, who rides professionally for French team FdJ Suez, won the 28.6-kilometre event at Mount Helen near Ballarat in 40 minutes 51.30 seconds.

Luke Plapp overcame a mechanical problem to dominate the men’s 37.5-kilometre event in 46:19.54, leading home a quadrella for his new team Jayco AlUla.

Brown finished fourth in the time-trial at the Tokyo Olympics and has won silver in the event at the past two world championships.

She also won time-trial gold at last year’s Commonwealth Games.

No Australian woman has won an Olympic time-trial medal, and Brown looks capable of ending that drought.

“After the two world championship silvers, I really have in my mind that if I get to the Olympics in my top form, I can compete for a gold medal,” Brown said.

“That’s my goal and I’m going to go into (the Olympics) believing that I can do it.”

Brown revealed she has not enjoyed a smooth off-season because of her lower back injury.

“I’m not exactly where I hope to be at this point. It’s not a major disaster,” she said.

“It’s an injury I know I can continue to perform with, but it would nice for it not to be there.”

Chapman was catching Brown towards the end of Thursday’s event, but she did enough to claim her fourth Australian title.

Kathy Watt has won the event five times and Shara Gillow also has four time-trial championships.

“It’s nice to have this one behind me,” Brown said.

“I died a bit, but I was able to keep fairly steady.

“Given where I’m at, I did a good race. It is a nice reassurance, but I know it’s not everything in the long term.”

Chapman finished only 6.89 seconds behind to move up one place from last year, while Georgie Howe went from second to third.

“Being that close to Grace really feels good. It keeps me hungry, you know,” said Chapman, who will defend her national road race title on Sunday.

Chapman is a strong contender for the Olympic road race team and says she is “100 per cent” interested in also riding the time-trial in Paris if Australia has a second starter.

Sarah Gigante, a two-time national time-trial champion, had a mechanical problem on Thursday and finished 11th.

Plapp then dominated the men’s elite race, despite having to change bikes early in his ride because of mechanical issues.

He beat new teammate Chris Harper by a whopping 32.71 seconds, despite having to change bikes.

Jayco AlUla veteran Michael Hepburn finished third and Kelland O’Brien was fourth to complete the team quadrella.

Plapp also looms as the top Australian hope in the men’s time-trial at the Paris Games.

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