I live in Seattle near the I-90 bike trail, and my “go to” one-hour ride is a lap around Mercer Island.
A couple years ago during my Mercer Island rides I started seeing a boy fiercely pedaling a road bike. He was always intense, aggressively charging, lapping the island. He was working hard, but it was also obvious that his pedal stroke was special: Unnaturally too efficient.
I emailed Martha Walsh, one of Seattle’s cycling matriarchs, to see whether she knew who it was. “Oh, that must be Adrian.” Once I could put a name with his focused face, I’ve kept him on my radar ever since.
Now 15, Adrian has also been on Full Speed Ahead‘s (aka “FSA”) radar since he was 12. 2019 is the fourth year he’ll be riding with their components.
FSA rep Cameron Simpson described their interest in Adrian:
“Full Speed Ahead has a rigorous selection process for sponsored athletes. Out of the thousands of applicants, we choose only a few select athletes each race season. This season, we chose twenty, three of whom are jr. athletes.
We select our athletes based on performance as well as personality. Adrian is a perfect example of an athlete who trains hard, races hard, and shows a tremendous amount of passion for the sport. In the last 4 years since we first supported Adrian, we have seen him grow and improve at an impressive rate. This is a kid who inspires everyone who’s watching him, and that’s exactly what we look for when selecting our athletes. We are excited to officially welcome Adrian to our FSA family.”
Adrian is a sophomore at Mercer Island High School, and along with his cycling talent is a budding scientist, with interests in chemistry and biology. Conveniently, he’s coached by one of Mercer Island High’s PE teachers, Toby Swanson, who is one of the area’s strongest mountain bike and cyclocross racers.
Adrian says his dad has been his biggest cycling influence.
My dad has always been into cycling, and he entered my older brother into some races when he was little. Not wanting to miss out, I did the “kiddie races” and loved it. By far the biggest influence was my dad, though. My dad’s love for cycling has now spread to the whole family.
Adrian’s dad Harrison recounts Adrian’s progression in cycling:
“At some point we all started out with riding a bike as something fun. That feeling of barreling down a hill, railing a turn, feeling the wind in your face. I think Olga and I really want to support Adrian’s passion and ability as a competitive bike racer, but we don’t ever want the sport to lose its fun for him. If it’s not fun, then what’s the point? It’s pretty stressful as a parent- what constitutes the right support? What’s overkill? What’s not enough?”
Adrian’s mom Olga says cycling is integral to their family:
“Luckily, we are all cyclists so going to races is a family activity. At this point, all of our vacations involve biking and it’s a wonderful way to stay connected as a family. Being an athlete and a growing teen he eats an incredible amount so I try to make sure he has nutritious meals and healthy snacks to choose from. Otherwise, Adrian is super responsible when it comes to his cycling needs: he does his own laundry, washes his bikes after races and packs up his own bike for traveling.”
This year Adrian will be riding a Gerard Cycles Force 100. Company founder John Sheehan echos my observations about Adrian’s skill and athleticism:
“We are happy to support a wonderful, up-and-coming cyclist such as Adrian. His passion and determination are a delight to watch. We are very impressed with his determination to improve himself and do his best. We feel that with our knowledge and expertise of bicycles and bike position we can help him on his path to the next level. We fully expect him to reach whatever level he puts his young mind to and we just want to be there to help.”
Adrian competes as a member of Apex Racing where he has earned the nickname “Warchild.”
According to Apex Racing’s president David McKinnie, “some Apexians have nicknames. You don’t get to pick your own. You have to do something to earn it. Sometimes you earn yours by being stupid, other times it’s for something more impressive. Adrian’s is ‘Warchild’ by virtue of someone seeing him out training in full race face mode–on a day so rainy, windy, and cold none of the rest of us had the toughness to to ride. Adrian is a very important part of Apex Racing.”
Harrison explained Adrian’s relationship with Apex this way:
“Adrian started racing with Apex when he was 10, and he’s 15 now so he’s really grown up with Apex as a fundamental part of who he is. I’m not sure who on the team said it first, but it’s like he has 50 crazy uncles. I think our email list is the greatest source of entertainment for him. As far as racing goes, he has always had a lot of support from the guys on the team. Apex does not have a junior team, so they pretty much treat him like one of them.”
“I think that riding and racing with adults has been great training and a lot of fun for Adrian. He’s learned how to be part of a leadout train, and other team tactics. At one Seward park race this past summer, he conspired with a teammate to win a beer prime. Adrian won that prime, and gave the six-pack to his leadout partner, Justin “Rez” Resnick. I think everyone went home happy.”
“Being on Apex has let Adrian experience the fun of riding and racing with others, and being part of that community. Wherever Adrian takes his passion and talents, I hope that the joy of riding bikes is something that sticks with him, and Apex has been a big part of that.”
During the 2015 and 2016 seasons Adrian earned podium finishes at the US Road Nationals and Cyclocross Nationals. He is consistently a top finisher at local road and cyclocross races.
Adrian recounts a few of his racing highlights:
“This last ‘cross season I had a great race in which I battled with cat 2 racer and absolute tank, Ian Tubbs (47-year old Tubbs has had multiple top 10 finishes at Dirty Kanza), getting my first elite win. About four years ago I did a race that I’ll never forget, in which I realised why cycling is a team sport. It was the long and hilly Enumclaw road race, and I was miles off the back. The only thing that kept me going was my teammate and fellow dropee, Jim “Muffin” Englert.”
It’s important to note that because of his age, Adrian is required to use junior gearing even though he is racing against adults using adult gearing.
Olga understands the perils of bicycle racing, let alone a small-framed adolescent racing against adults.
“I’m always a nervous wreck when Adrian is racing. As moms we have two jobs: to protect our kids and to help them realize their dreams. When it comes to Adrian, those two things are at odds with each other. I remember him lining up with nearly 70 grown men for the Northshore road race. This was one of his earliest category races. He was only 11 and people were complaining that he was so small they might take him out because he’s not in their line of sight. I kept thinking, ‘I must be crazy to let this happen. I will never forgive myself if he gets hurt.’ But he did great and I was so proud of him afterwards for fighting so hard and stretching himself, racing with the big guys.”
Adrian aims to land some podium spots in 2019.
“I want to upgrade to cat 3 this year in road, and do some stage races out of state. This year is also the year that ‘cross nationals are here in Steilacoom, so I’m going to try to go for gold. I’m not sure what my racing will look like in five years- I don’t really think about that too much.”
Adrian has this advice for other teens thinking about cycling or racing bicycles:
“I think that cyclocross is a great way to meet the cycling community, and it’s a place where anyone can race regardless of gear or ability. If you can find a safe road to bike on, just a 45 minute ride can totally make your day. Just make sure you’re riding safe and wearing a helmet!”
Headline photo credit: Woodinville Bicycle.
Previous mentions of Adrian in Northwest in Motion.