Nate Brown described his fourth place at the end of the tough stage to Sestola at the Giro d'Italia as "one of the biggest rides I've had," confirming that the 24-year-old Austin resident is developing year on year as he competes in Grand Tours and stage races.
Brown joined Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream set-up in 2014 when it was sponsored by Garmin Sharp and secured a place in the 2015 team when it merged with Cannondale. He rode his first Grand Tour in 2014, finishing the Vuelta a Espana and then completed the Giro d'Italia in 2015, playing a vital team role. This year he had been feeing tired after an intense first week but bounced back after the rest day in Tuscany on Monday.
"I've always come out of rest days really good. There's something about it, I take one day off and I come out of feeling really good. Today was the same. I started the stage and knew I was on a good day," he explained post stage.
The stage to Sestola was one of the hardest of this year's Giro d'Italia with the riders covering 219km and over 4000m of climbing in the twisting Apennines hills that divide Tuscany from Emilia Romagna. Brown followed team orders to jump across to the early break of the day and so spent much of the almost five hours of racing in the thick of the action.
"Fabrizio Guidi (Cannondale directeur sportif) wanted either me, Joe (Dombrowski) or Moreno (Moser) to get in the break. A good hour and half had gone and then Astana started working and a break got away on the first big climb. Fabrizio came on the radio and said we need to go across to the break. I was in the right spot and so I jumped across," Brown explained, neglecting to explain how hard the riders in the move worked to get across the early attackers.
The 13-rider attack then worked together to hold off the peloton, but also began to think how they could try to win the stage. The likes of Georg Preidler (Giant-Alpecin) tried a solo attack. Giulio Ciccone timed his effort the best and stayed away to win, while Brown made a late surge to catch other riders and hold off the peloton that came up fast in the finale kilometres.
"We worked smoothly sometimes and then there were other moments when nobody wanted to pull, that happened all day long. There good and bad, good and bad moments," Brown said, revealing the secrets of the breakaway. "I was told not to pull as much and I did that and it helped me because it meant I had something left at the end."
Brown managed to pass Damiano Cunego (Nippo Vini Fantini) close to the line to secure fourth place and celebrate one of the best rides of professional career.
"For sure this is one of the biggest rides I've had. To be top 5 on a Grand Tour stage for me is huge," he confirmed.
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