Periodically this season, we will check in with riders on the Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team who are competing in USA Cycling's Under 23 program. Last Sunday, Adrien Costa finished fifth overall and won the "best young rider" title in a three-day, four-stage race in Belgium, Le Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux. We asked the 18-year-old American from Bend, Oregon, to share some behind-the-scenes details about it.
This was one of your first experiences in a major European Under 23 race. How different was it from competing in the junior ranks?
"It was definitely a big learning experience – a big step up from anything I had ever done. I have done similar distances in U.S. amateur races, and gotten a taste of the intensity in European junior races. But increasing the two and putting them together made it a whole new experience. Going into the race, I was just hoping to be aggressive, fighting for anything I could, and to learn as much as possible about positioning, saving energy, and being there at the end. I think this mentality helped me be up there from the first day and not be afraid to attack in the finale. That, in turn, gave me the confidence to fight for the front on the second stage and make the selection on the last lap."
You were eighth overall heading into a morning time trial on the last day. How were you feeling about your chances in the 10-kilometer race against the clock?
"Being the first time trial of my season, and being quite short, I didn't know what to expect. So I was pretty pleased with a fourth-place finish, although I think there were definitely some things I could have improved on."
Then there was a final stage in the afternoon, a 91-kilometer road race that featured strong cross winds and cobblestones.
"That last stage was the most stressful. But thankfully I got through it OK with the help of my teammates. Having a purpose every day was really nice and was motivating for the whole team. But it also meant it was a constant battle to be in the front, make every split, and stay out of trouble!
"Overall, like I said, I learned a ton in my introduction to professional/UCI races and I am excited to apply that experience to the rest of the season as well as see what having the first race in the legs can do for my fitness."
You will next see Costa competing in the Tour of Flanders Espoirs, the ZLM Tour and Tour de Bretagne – all with USA Cycling.