Nathan Brown proved himself the best climber of the breakaway during stage 3 at the Tour de France on Monday, earning the second polka-dot jersey of the race in just his first participation. Just don’t ask him to keep up with Cannondale-Drapac teammate Taylor Phinney - who won the jersey the day before - in his post-race interviews.
"You can't compare me to Phinney now; my interviews won't compete," the 25-year-old American said of his teammate, whose press conference the day before included multiple references to "bros" and a story about a strategy meeting with director Charly Wegelius during which the rider was naked.
"He didn't. He didn't walk into my room. No one told me," Brown said when asked if he, unlike Phinney, had clothes on when Wegelius devised the day's plan in his hotel room.
In fact, Brown's breakaway was not part of the team's pre-race plan. Cannondale-Drapac had targeted Dylan van Baarle as the rider to infiltrate the day's escape. But luck shined on Brown when he was covering moves.
"Luck and a little strength involved," Brown said of making the breakaway that stuck.
"Dylan was the main one to go in [the breakaway], and obviously I was going to watch any moves that he wasn't in, and one went away that he didn't make and I jumped across. It happened to be the one."
Brown took the points on the first of three ranked climbs, but his battle for the jersey was only beginning as Katusha-Alpecin's Nils Politt took the category 4 Cote de Wilzt. Brown and Politt battled for points on the the cat. 3 Cote d'Eschdorf 15km later. Brown won out, moving him into the mountains jersey lead.
Brown said in the finishing straight after the stage that despite being confident he was the best climber in the group, there were definitely moments of doubt about his ability to win the jersey.
"There was, especially when we were tied on points," he said of himself and Politt. "I didn't know who was going to get it because he was super strong. I thought as long as I could get to the bottom of the climb with him I could out-climb him. I didn't want to wait too long, so I went pretty early, maybe too early, but it worked out."
Unlike time trial specialist Phinney, Brown is a formidable climber who might have better luck hanging onto the jersey, but he knows his days could be limited as the race approaches the first true mountain day on stage 5.
"Stage 5 is a bit of a doozy," he said of the route that finishes with the Planche des Belles Filles, the first category 1 climb of the race. "We'll see. Obviously we'll go with the team goals first, but if that has me keeping the jersey, I'd love to."
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