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Brandon McNulty solos to first European pro victory

Rally's McNulty proves his mettle in pro peloton, claiming his first career victory in stage 3 at Giro di Sicilia with solo attack. He leads overall with one day to go.

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On a rainy day in Sicily, Brandon McNulty (Rally-UHC) rode alone to his first European victory in the pro peloton, taking stage 3 at Giro di Sicilia and moving into the overall lead on Friday.

“It was incredible when I attacked I just put my head down and went full-gas,” the young American said. “I am super happy. I am not really used to racing like this, but it seems I do well on this terrain and in this weather.”

His victory in Friday’s 188-kilometer stage from Caltanissetta to Ragusa proved that McNulty, who had already earned results as a time trial specialist, can reach the top step of the podium in a pro road race.

He attacked with 10 kilometers to go, after the day’s primary climb, Serra di Burgio, which is a gradual 20-kilometer climb that gains 512 meters in elevation. He held his advantage to the line which was mostly downhill with a final three-kilometer uphill kick to the line in Ragusa.

“Pat McCarty [team director] radioed Gavin Mannion and I telling us to look for any opportunity after cresting Serra di Burgio,” said McNulty. “Gavin started following moves and when there was a swell in the group, I slingshotted of the front. I hit the wet descent and took the necessary risks to help grow the gap. Once I hit the final climb, I knew I probably had it and just went as hard as I could to the end.”

This result is a culmination of a steady development path that began when he signed with the Rally Pro Cycling team in 2017, opting not to dive right into the European peloton. After winning the 2016 junior world time trial championships in Qatar, he was viewed as one of the top prospects in pro cycling.

In his debut season with Rally, results were modest but strong. He won the U.S. under-23 time trial championships, was second overall at Tour Alsace in France, and was second in under-23 world time trial championships.

The following year, he showed promise with a near-miss at the 2018 Dubai Tour, riding alone off the front and coming within meters of winning the Hata Dam stage.

A win at Giro di Sicilia, which is a UCI 2.1-category event, is a big milestone for the 21-year-old.

The Giro di Sicilia was first held in 1907, but has been dormant for the last 42 years. The race culminates with Saturday’s final stage, a 119km race starting in Giardini Naxos with a summit finish atop the Mount Etna volcano, 1,892 meters above sea level.

McNulty promised he would fight to keep his overall lead, a 59-second advantage over Odd Christian Eiking (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), who was second in stage 3.

“I am in good condition and the team has given me great help, help that I’ll need tomorrow to try to defend the leader’s jersey,” he said.

His team is also confident in his chances of landing its biggest European result on Saturday.

“Of course we will defend the lead because we are the team to beat,” said team director Pat McCarty. “I think everyone is confident we are capable of getting the job done.”

With a victory in stage 3, McNulty will defend the overall lead in the Giro di Sicily’s final stage, a mountaintop finish on Mount Etna. Photo: LaPresse – Fabio Ferrari