The difference of a year for U.S. cyclist Nate Brown

    We love, love, love this Nate Brown feature from Bonnie Ford for ESPN. Brown was the ninth man to earn his spot on the #GreenArgyle Tour de France team, and he’s more than demonstrated his merit. The American credits his girlfriend Annie Ewart with providing him the support he’s needed to produce his strongest season to date.

    They were both professional riders when they met, not even three years ago. Now he’s a 26-year-old racing his first Tour de France and she’s retired at 23, due to circumstances beyond her control. Yet they’ve never been closer.

    When Nate Brown jumped into a breakaway and successfully attacked on two categorized hills on the Stage 3 course in the Ardennes, taking the points he needed to wear the King of the Mountains jersey, Annie Ewalt felt joy wash over her at the home they share in Girona, Spain.

    Brown had been the ninth and final rider selected for Cannondale-Drapac’s Tour roster. Before the race began, Ewart told him: “Who knows if you’ll ever do it again? Really try to be a part of the Tour and not just survive it.”

    Since his two-day stint in the polka-dot jersey, Brown has done “a lot of anonymous but high-class work” as a support rider, team director Charly Wegelius said. His contribution has helped Cannondale’s team stay at full strength, and position its Colombian star Rigoberto Uran, now 27 seconds behind overall leader Chris Froome, to make a podium run.

    “People at home, they don’t see it,” Wegelius said. “I hope at this Tour, [Brown] can find a bit of ego and realize how good he is. He’s always worked hard, but he’s been a little bit too modest. He’s really proving his value, I think.”