Lannion, France – Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team's Adrien Costa impressively soloed to win Thursday's queen stage of Le Tour de Bretagne Cycliste and climbed into the overall lead with three days of the French race to go.
Riding in the stars-and-stripes jersey of the USA Cycling Under 23 squad, Costa thrust his arms in the air as he crossed the line in the port city of Lannion. The Stanford, California, native and Bend, Oregon, resident then promptly rolled his Specialized S-Works Tarmac to a stop and tried to catch his breath.
"To win today for me is hard to believe," Costa said. "It shows the consistently increasing level of the team every day and is something we can all really be proud of. It is emotional for me personally, being able to deliver something I have worked hard all winter for, and to make all those who have tirelessly supported and sacrificed for me along the way see the fruits of their belief."
If Costa's victory wasn't big enough, a second Axeon Hagens Berman rider on Team USA – Colin Joyce – finished third behind Sébastien Delfosse (Wallonie Bruxelles-Group Protect). Joyce arrived in a group of four and shot up to 11th overall, 30 seconds behind Costa.
"Today was definitely a good day," Joyce said. "I really needed something like this personally. I haven't had the best start to the season, so it is nice to have a few things go right. I am super happy for Adrien. He deserves this. He is such a hard worker, so it is nice to see that pay off really big for him. I am just glad I could have a small part to play in it."
The head coach of USA Cycling's Under 23 Development Program, Mike Sayers, called the performances the most monumental he has witnessed since taking over the program four years ago.
"This is a big race in France with many quality teams and riders," Sayers said. "For me, Colin's teamwork and third-place finish is almost as important as Adrien's win. This race and result defines this program: quality racing, high levels, learning experiences and team work for all the program – no matter their trade teams – all happening outside the comforts of home."
Costa, 18, and Joyce, 21, made the decisive split as the 146.4-kilometer race reached several laps of a finishing circuit.
"Earlier in the stage, Adrien told me he was feeling 'on' and I was feeling all right too," Joyce said. "So I told him we would key off of each other. In the circuits, we both made a break that ended up being the winning move. Adrien told me he felt really good and could win, so I just tried to ride for him as much as I could. He then attacked and made the group look silly. He slayed it on the last lap while I just followed the moves that went."
With three more lumpy road races of 192 km, 156 km and 150 km still to come, Costa leads Dutchman Lennard Hofstede of the Rabobank Development Team by eight seconds. Czech Frantisek Sisr (Klein Constantia) is in third, 13 seconds back.
"This is definitely a win I am trying to savor before heading back into battle Friday," Costa said. "I came to this race looking forward to a challenging learning experience, with unprecedented distances, field quality, and consecutive days for me. Obviously, I always had a little general classification ambition in the back of my mind, as I always shoot for my best in every race I line up for. But I didn't know at all how the race would play out course-wise and competition-wise."
Sayers said Team USA – which includes a third Axeon Hagens Berman rider, Greg Daniels – will keep aiming high and do its best to defend the overall lead.
"We will have a plan, stay calm and together, and no matter what – learn from the opportunity," he said. "We will enjoy what is a very difficult task ahead and win or lose, be happy with our accomplishments."