Among the many standout performances young riders put in last week at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in California, the most impressive arguably came from Adrien Costa, the 17-year-old junior who finished third overall behind Phil Gaimon (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly-Maxxis).
Costa (California Giant-Specialized) climbed onto the podium on the strength of solid riding throughout the week, topped off with a fourth-place finish during the stage 3 climb to Oak Glen, where he made the elite selection of eight riders over the closing 10km climb that set the final general classification podium for the race.
It was obviously an impressive ride considering his young age, but Costa, the runner-up last year in the junior time trial world championships and the current US junior time trial champion, was typically subdued about his week of work at Redlands.
"I'm not in amazing shape, but I had some high hopes coming into it, and I was hoping to get a good result," he told Cyclingnews after stepping down from the final overall podium.
"I did this race for the first time last year as a first-year junior, so I started it pretty young, and this year with the addition of the Oak Glen stage – I like to climb, so I wanted to do well."
Costa finished atop Oak Glen just 14 seconds behind stage winner Gaimon, who rode in the WorldTour last year with Garmin-Sharp, and he was 17 seconds ahead of 2013 Vuelta a España champion Chris Horner (Airgas-Safeway). The world-class company clearly did not intimidate the California native.
"It was [intimidating] last year when I did [Redlands] for the first time," he said. "But going up Oak Glen with Horner and with Gaimon, you know, I think it actually gave me extra motivation and it helped me push myself that much harder, whereas usually climbing with others, it's not the same push. Yeah, it was really fun."
Costa's fun continued during the Sunset Loop stage on the final day of Redlands, where he says he was "hanging on for dear life" over the KOM on the final laps.
“And then with the junior gears coming off the Sunset Loop I had a little scary moment," he said. "But I managed to spin the gear up and get back into the pack."
Costa will be joining the European junior pack soon when he heads across the Atlantic in two weeks to compete in three Nations Cup races, including the Peace Race, Tour du Pays de Vaud and Trofeo Karlsberg.
Costa won two stages and the overall at Vaud last year, along with the Tour de l'Abitibi time trial and a Belgian kermesse or two. He said the Nations Cup points series is a big goal this year.
But the biggest goal, of course, will be the world championships this year in Richmond, Virginia. Costa set the fastest early time last year in Ponferrada, Spain, but he had to watch his mark slip to second best when German Lennard Kamna crossed the line 45 seconds faster.
Kamna is in the U23 ranks now, and with the race in the US this year, Costa, who has won multiple national championships, is hoping to get his first rainbow jersey in September.
"I really was satisfied with my TT here," he said of his 17th-place finish during the Redlands time trial. "I've been working really closely with Specialized to get position and everything dialed. So, yeah, it's just part of building toward [the world championships] and that's the big goal of the year for me."
So how many extra watts does Costa think he'll get from the adrenaline rush of racing for the rainbow stripes on home soil?
"At least 50 to 100," he said with a laugh. "But it will be fun for sure. I'm really looking forward to it."