Nate Brown (Cannondale Garmin) rode himself into the day's main breakaway and narrowly missed the stage win on Tuesday's race from Steamboat Springs to Arapahoe Basin at the USA Pro Challenge. Brown was caught in the final kilometer by a chase group powered by BMC teammates Rohan Dennis and Brent Bookwalter.
Dennis blasted past Brown, enabling Bookwalter to sprint for the win. As Dennis rode by, Brown waved at the cameras and eventually finished in 13th place. Although he lost out on his biggest win to date, Brown was awarded the jersey for most aggressive rider.
Although Brown was born in Colorado Springs, the 24-year-old grew up at sea level in Tennessee. Brown turned professional in 2010 with the Trek-Livestrong squad and moved to Garmin-Sharp in 2014.To date, his biggest professional acheivements were GC wins at the Tour Du Pays De Vaud in 2009 at the Tour de Beauce in 2013.
The day's breakaway went in the opening kilometers of the race and was well established before the leaders hit the first climb through Rabbit Ears Pass, only 7km into the race. The break started up the first climb with a comfortable lead of 2:40 on the field.
"The goal for the day was to put someone in the break," Brown said. "I didn't expect it to be me, but when the break went and we didn't have anyone, I jumped across. The break rode really well the whole day; everyone was rotating. When we got to Ute Pass I decided to punch it a little bit to test the legs of the other guys, and I could tell I was one of the stronger guys in the group."
Brown laid in wait until the break approached the final climb up to Arapahoe Basin. Brown attacked with 20km to go and only Gregory Daniel (Axeon) could respond.
"We worked well together until the base of the climb, and then I just hit it," Brown said. "Until about 800 metres to go I was solo and I thought maybe I'll just hold onto this, but they were coming up fast."
Brown was optimistic as he started up to the summit of Arapahoe Basin. He had dropped his watts 40 below his normal sea level numbers and determined the time gap he would need for a shot at the win.
"When I got to the base of the climb I knew I needed two minutes to have a chance, and we had 2:40, so I thought there is a chance I could pull this off," Brown said. "Even up until 2km to go I thought there was a chance, but BMC was driving the rest of the group, and they had a bit more gas than I did at the end. But that's bike racing."
At the post-race press conference, Brown speculated on his team's plans for the coming week.
"I think we are going to stay super aggressive," he said. "I think we are going to obviously look for a lot of breakaways and look for opportunities. Davide [Formolo] passed me right at the top. I think he was within 30 seconds of the leaders. He's definitely an option. BMC is still super strong so but we will keep throwing stuff at them all week."