Nice Guys Can Finish First (Or At Least With Silver)

"Climbing," said Adrien Costa. "It' like heaven for me. I don't mind time-trialing, but it's not the same."
“Climbing,” said Adrien Costa. “It’ like heaven for me. I don’t mind time-trialing, but it’s not the same.” Photo: Jim Merithew/

Adrien Costa has been all over the cycling media after winning silver in the junior Worlds time trial championships in Richmond, 17 seconds off the lead.

The 18-year-old hopes his junior success will eventually lead to a contract in the pro peleton, but for now he is just trying to keep it all in perspective and accomplish one goal at a time.

“He might be humble, but he doesn’t back down from any challenge,” said Jonathan Vaughters, manager of the Cannondale-Garmin cycling team. “Doing a World Tour training camp? No problem. Quite a bit stronger than many of the pros and did all of the training miles.”

Costa has been living in Bend, Oregon after growing up in Los Altos, California.

“It is small town life, relaxed and a ton of things to do outside,” said Costa. “Hiking and they have the rivers and the lakes there. It is perfect offseason territory. I love it.”

So what has he been up to since being on the podium?

“Since Worlds, it’s been a month now, and I haven’t really ridden that much,” said Costa. “I started with two weeks completely off. And now just messing around a couple times a week.. Yeah, for any level of cyclist it is important to have the rest, mentally especially.”

He got some of his wisdom about seeking balance from his coach, some from his mom and picked up even more during the Cannondale-Garmin training camp he got invited to earlier this year in Mallorca.

“It was amazing,” said Costa. “I learned so much and not just from cycling. Obviously you do learn just talking to the guys about how everyone finds their balance between cycling and regular life. They are some of the best in the world, but they still live interesting lives outside of cycling. You have to find the balance. It was really interesting and it gave me a good perspective on what I need to do and some thing I can relax upon a little more. To still be young for a little bit.”

Costa started riding on the track in San Jose at the ripe old age of 12.

“The track really is a great way to start,” he said. “Because you learn so much: pedal stroke, tactics, bike handling, it is so good.”

Costa hopes to eventually take his skills to the pro peleton and have what it takes to be a contender on the GC.

“In the junior races and amateur races I tend to get better as the race progresses,” he said. “And I’m good at time-trialing and climbing. And those are the three key ingredients. I absolutely love climbing. It’s heaven for me. I don’t mind time trialling, but it’s not the same.”

“He’s willing to do the hard work, live the solitary lifestyle, and make the real sacrifices,” said Vaughters. “Of course he’s talented. He can climb, he can time trial, and he can handle a big workload. But his desire to succeed and willingness to do what it takes to succeed is what sets him apart.”

Two minutes after our interview, Costa is headed to Europe to train in Nice and will be riding for theAxeon development team next season. He will be watched over by none other than Axel Merckx.

“Eventually you have to take a step and adapt,” said Costa. “I don’t think we are close to being able to produce riders independently without going through Europe. It’s because the country is so big and even though we might have more cyclists total, they are so spread out.”

Costa is keeping it all in perspective and attempting to remember why he loved riding his bike to begin with.

“I’ve been trying to rekindle the same passion I had when I was younger,” said Costa. “After school rides used to be my favorite. I would go out after school and just ride my bike. Then the next day you spend the whole day in school day dreaming about riding after school.”

“I’m still trying to find the perfect balance.” he said.

The Interview

Family: Oldest of three siblings

Yellow or Pink: Oh I think yellow, but I think the Giro is a race I find way more inspiring. Just because of the courses and the difficulty of it and the struggles with the weather. They race with way more passion at the Giro. The Tour just seems super calculated. But, it is the biggest race and I don’t think anyone would mind yellow.

How to win a TT: My best TTs are when you just really get into that rhythm where you are hurting really bad, but you can still hold that rhythm. It’s all about finding that sweet spot. It is definitely a huge, huge mental game.

Is your mom supportive: 100 percent.

What is your spirit animal: I have no idea. I’ll have to come up with one.

“He’s a thoroughbred,” said Jonathan Vaughters. “That’s his spirit animal.”

Favorite Meal: I would say burritos. Any burrito.

Three words friends would use to describe you: Focused. Adventurous. And hopefully smart.

Languages spoken: I speak French, Spanish and I’m learning Italian.

Favorite movie: I just watched The Godfather and I enjoyed that. A little bit of action and a little bit of history. I don’t watch a ton of movies.

Favorite music: I play guitar, so I’m into the ’70s rock stuff. I’m really into Carlos Santana. I’ve been doing a couple of his things note-by-note and I’m getting there.

KOMs: I want to come back and get the Old La Honda KOM one day. You tell the guy who has it I’m coming to get it.

One thing people don’t know about you: Let’s just say cyclist are aggressive drivers. I got pulled over doing triple digits. (In his van, no less)