The punishing 107-kilometre race burst into life inside the final 40km as a strong 13-rider group formed on the Cote de la Fosse aux Loups climb.
The peloton eventually reacted to the move on the following repeat ascent of the climb as a reduced bunch bridged across to the attackers on the lower slopes. A fresh attack was then launched over the top, with Brown quick to react as she followed the wheels to make up part of a 12-rider escape group. The group steadily built an advantage despite very limited cooperation between the escaped riders, with Brown the most often sighted at the front.
As the bell rang out of the last lap the group held an advantage of 45 seconds, but with no cooperation amongst the leaders the gap soon began to fall. The catch was eventually made with four km to go as Team BikeExchange moved to the front with Australian champion Sarah Roy leading into the foot of the final climb.
Attacks were launched immediately with Brown the one to first respond to a big attack by Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM). Several riders then attempted to go solo in the closing metres, but the race ultimately came down to a nervous and cagey sprint for the line with Brown fighting to fifth place behind winner Demi Vollering (SD-Worx).
“It was an exciting race, right from the start the pace was super high in the peloton," said Brown. "We had Ane in a break when we first hit the circuit and then I followed another move which stayed away until the final ascent to the finish line.
"Roy gave us a great lead out, but I probably made a mistake trying to follow an attack by Tiff Cromwell at the start of the climb. In the end, I didn’t quite have the kick I needed to contest the sprint.”
Alejandro González-Tablas, sports director for Team BikeExchange was relatively content at the finish.
“It was a pretty good day," said González-Tablas, "the girls rode really well as a team and they all had their opportunity to be in breakaways and we had Ane there covering an important move as we came onto the local laps.
"Grace made it into another break and she tried to play it a little bit cool knowing the group was coming from behind. In the end, she was just missing the legs a little bit after make some efforts that we could have avoided.
"But in the end, it went to plan and we achieved the goals that we set for this race, so we are happy and full of confidence going into the Giro Rosa.”
SBS will broadcast highlights from the Giro Rosa daily on SBS, with all the news and action from the longest stage race on the women's calendar featuring most of the top riders.