Adrien Costa wrapped up a victory in the 50th Tour de Bretagne Sunday, marking the first time an American has ever won the race.
The 18-year-old from Bend, Oregon, competing for the USA Cycling under-23 squad, took a solo win Thursday in stage 4, the queen stage, and grabbed hold of the lead along the way. He held on at the top through Sunday’s stage 7 to close out the race as the winner.
“It hasn’t really sunk in because I wasn’t thinking about the overall win as a true possibility,” said Costa, among many promising up-and-comers riding for the developmental Axeon Hagens Berman squad.
“After I won that stage, I tried to enjoy that victory as much as possible. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself for the overall win. Just being a first-year under-23 rider, I was already happy to have won a stage. So that kind of helped me stay relaxed. I just can’t believe it.”
A 2.2-rated UCI event, the Tour de Bretagne does allow professional riders, but it has long been a popular showcase for cycling’s top prospects.
For Costa, sealing up the GC victory was made even more difficult by the absence of several teammates in the final stage. Two of the American squad’s riders missed the time cut Saturday and a third was a DNS Sunday, leaving only Sean Bennett and Greg Daniel (also an Axeon Hagens Berman teammate of Costa’s) to ride in support of the GC leader.
“Before the stage, we had Sean and Greg set their finish line at 120 kilometers, which was the entrance of the circuits,” Costa said. “We got pretty lucky today because the breakaway that went off did not have any big teams. So their gap never got huge. Sean and Greg did a fantastic job for 60 or 70 kilometers on the front, keeping me out of trouble and keeping the gap manageable. So I had a really relaxed ride into the circuit.”
Once on the circuit, Costa was able to handle things on his own.
“Thankfully it was a hard circuit which suits me,” he said. “On the climb, I was able to keep everyone marked. Then it was pretty technical the rest of the way, which made it easier to keep things together. At the end of the day, today’s stage was a lot less stressful mentally and physically than the last two days. Especially yesterday, when the breakaway had an eight-minute lead and I thought we had lost the race. So in that respect, today was a lot easier.”
Costa finished stage 7 in fourth place, four seconds back of stage winner Nick Schultz (SEG Racing Academy). That was a strong enough performance to wrap up the GC win by seven seconds over runner-up Frantisek Sisr (Klein Constantia). Lennard Hofstede (Rabobank Development Team) finished the race in third place overall, 13 seconds back.
The victory will undoubtedly come as a big confidence boost for Costa, who has already racked up a pair of silver medals in the juniors time trial at the road world championships, but Axeon Hagens Berman manager Axel Merckx is hoping to keep things in perspective in the interest of Costa’s continued development.
“This is a huge win — as much for him and for USA Cycling’s program as it is for us,” Merckx said. “We are very excited about this. But you have to keep in mind Adrien is still very young and that puts a lot of pressure and stress on him. We don’t want to burn him out.
“It is easy for us to go and put him in every single race because he is the next big talent. But we could burn him out like that. So we have to be careful and very particular. Riders like that still need to recover and still need their rest and to be able to grow physically and emotionally.”
Costa has certainly earned a recovery period given the strong spring he has had so far. In addition to his stage victory, overall title, and young riders’ classification win in the Tour de Bretagne, he landed seventh in the under-23 Tour of Flanders last month and also nabbed the youth classification at the Triptyque des Monts et Châteaux stage race, finishing fifth overall.