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Brown aims for TT medal at cycling worlds

Medal contender Grace Brown will be the Australian focus as the world road cycling championships start with a sense of the unknown.

While riders such as Brown and defending champions Ellen van Dijk and Filippo Ganna will be the focus on Sunday at Wollongong, no-one is quite sure how the elite time trials will unfold.

The long travel from Europe coupled with a technical city course with plenty of corners, could make for upset results.

“Obviously there are some really strong girls,’ Brown said.

“It’s a unique course, it’s a bit hard to predict who it is going to suit best out of the top riders.

“But I believe I’m in with a good shot.

“I quite like the dynamic aspect of this course – it’s on-off, always something happening.”

Brown confirmed her worlds form with a stage win last week in Spain.

The 30-year-old won the Commonwealth Games time trial and was fourth in the discipline at the Tokyo Olympics.

But she will be in a stacked field featuring van Dijk, fellow Dutch star Annemiek van Vleuten and Swiss Marlen Reusser.

The other Australian in the women’s race will be Georgia Baker, who has won three Commonwealth Games gold medals on the road and track and is aiming for a top-10 finish.

The men and women will race two circuits of a 16.8km course around downtown Wollongong.

Rohan Dennis’ absence for personal reasons means Luke Plapp will be the only Australian in the men’s time trial.

Plapp has strong time trial pedigree, taking second in the under-23s at last year’s worlds.

But last weekend he finished the Vuelta a Espana, his first three-week Grand Tour, and is feeling the effects.

“After racing the Vuelta, I’m not sure what to expect … it’s a bit of a lottery,” he said.

“(I’m) on my hands and knees, absolutely fatigued.

“I’m pretty buckled and smashed. It was something I’ve never experienced before.

“I severely underestimated it and I’ve spent the last week just trying to recover. It was brutal.”

Belgian ace Remco Evenepoel, who just won the Vuelta for the first time, and two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar from Slovenia also highlight the men’s field.

After Sunday the world championships will feature junior and under-23 events through the week, plus a mixed team relay, ahead of next weekend’s big elite road races.

Australia has strong men’s and women’s road race teams, but Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley is in doubt after testing positive to COVID-19.

He tested positive on September 12, the day after finishing the Vuelta.

It remains unclear whether he will fly to Wollongong from his European base on Monday, as planned.

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