• Grace Brown is looking to take on a bigger role at Team BikeExchange this season. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Aussie star Grace Brown is determined to fill the void of Annemiek van Vlueten at Team BikeExchange in 2021and help lead the Australian outfit at the upcoming Spring Classics.

Brown came into her own in 2020 despite a coronavirus interrupted season with a win at Brabantse Pijl and a second-place finish at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

The departure of van Vlueten from Team BikeExchange (formerly Mitchelton Scott) to join Movistar at the end of the previous campaign has opened the door for Brown to step up and become the team’s headline act alongside compatriot Amanda Spratt.

The challenge ahead is not lost on Brown who said in an interview with Cyclingnews that she believes the upcoming season could prove to be one of the most important in her career.

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“The year is open to me in a way and I have to make the most of this opportunity as it might not come again,” Brown said.

“I see this season as pretty important in terms of taking it up to the next level and continuing what I was doing at the end of last season.

“It’s a continuation that I need to improve and need to keep working towards the best way of getting results.

"Without Annemiek van Vleuten there, it’s going to be really interesting for the team, and for the other girls as well – not just me – who see themselves as stepping up.”

Brown’s first chance to make her mark in 2021 will be on home soil at the Santos Festival of Cycling later this month when it gets underway in Adelaide.

The event, a replacement for Tour Down Under which was forced to cancel this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, will feature a women’s peloton race up Willunga Hill for the very first time.

And while not a Women’s WorldTour race, Brown believes the Santos Festival of Cycling is the perfect launching point before her attack on the European season.

“It was initially announced that the Tour Down Under was cancelled, which was disappointing, but it’s going to be fun to race on Australian soil before heading back to Europe and see where we are at,” she said.

“It’s always fun to put on a show for the Australian fans as well.

“None of us will be targeting our training towards it but it’s important for the team to be there and to put on a really good race.

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Our Australian competitors will be strong and it won't be easy to walk away with the honours. Being on home soil and having our local fans cheering us on adds a bit more importance.

"This year’s course seems well suited to me. I’ve not ridden but from looking at the profile it looks good for me and GC, with maybe a stage here or there.

"Willunga will be exciting. It’s just a short stage before we race to the top so it will be a bit of a sprint but it’s an iconic climb and it will be good to see what the women can do up there. Hopefully, this sets the path for us to be racing up there in the future when the race is UCI again.”