Jonny Brown flying stars and stripes in Colombia

The Hagens Berman Axeon team and US road race champion Jonny Brown are starting their season at the Tour Colombia 2.1 – a race that has six stages contested above 2,000 metres of elevation. It will be a tough row to hoe for the U23 development team that has just finished a training camp in Fayetteville, Arkansas, which sits at 427 metres above sea level.

"We all just came straight from our team camp in Arkansas, so everything is a bit different – the altitude and the weather. With that, we're a little unexpected, but we'll see how it goes," said Brown, who shocked the US cycling scene last year with a daring solo move to take a surprise victory at the USA Cycling Pro Road Championships in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"It's always tough coming into the first race," he said. "You never know quite where you're at compared with everyone, but we have a lot of good climbers, so we'll see what we can do for them."

Despite the challenging week ahead, Brown, 21, said he is excited to get things rolling at the UCI 2.1-ranked race that also features Team Sky's Chris Froome and Egan Bernal, EF Education First's Rigoberto Uran and Movistar's Nairo Quintana.

"I'm really happy to start the season here and so glad to start racing," Brown said. "I think the biggest thing is to keep improving, and my expectations are a little bit higher than last year. I want to see what I can do in Europe. A big goal going into 2020 is to find a new team and see how I can play that out."

After Colombia, Brown will fly straight to Europe to begin his spring campaign.

"We'll do a lot of the spring Classics in Belgium," he explained. "For me, all my races until probably the Tour of California will be in Europe.

"It's huge for all the American guys to get that experience for what we would like to do in the future. Almost every American who joins this team has their eyes on racing in Europe."

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.