By Adriana Tapia*
Racing through College
As MSU students near the end of the fall semester, Cody LaCosta is preparing to cross a finish line of his own. LaCosta, a Political Science major, is wrapping up his final year at Montclair – balancing the books with a demanding professional cycling career.
Currently sponsored by the Carolyn Foundation and Trek-Shimano, LaCosta travels with a professional team and participates in cycling competitions nationwide. The 24-year-old has raced his way to some big wins that earned him a reputation in the world of pro cycling. His achievements include breaking the High Point Hill Climb record for the first time in 25 years, taking home first prize at Lake Placid Whiteface (one of the biggest mountain bike races in the world), and winning the Cycle Cross State Championships – just a few of his many wins.
The Berkeley Heights native found his niche in cycling while he was working at a bike shop in high school. This, combined with the continual support of his mother (an MSU liberal arts alumna and an avid bike rider herself), allowed LaCosta’s hobby to evolve into something greater. He entered his first competition, the Maryland Hills 50, as an amateur, and emerged at the front of the pack, winning the race. “Four and a half hours later, I crossed the finish line. No one knew who I was. That’s when I started getting phone calls and sponsorships,” he said in an interview. Thus, LaCosta’s pro cycling career was born.
Online coursework: a key to work/study balance
Today, he attends MSU full-time and is able to train for competitions simultaneously by taking both online and in-person classes. Online classes are essential to making it as a nontraditional student since he can complete assignments on-the-go, logging on to Canvas from hotels or host houses across the country and even abroad.
By obtaining a degree in Political Science, he hopes to get involved in administration or nonprofits, but plans to stay involved in the cycling industry. “I want to stay in cycling, even when I’m done racing,” he said. LaCosta has an eye on a position with the United States Olympic Committee, a role that combines his passion for cycling and skills from his academic study.
A study in stamina
Of course, the road to success is never paved smoothly. The cyclist wakes up at five o’clock in the morning to train daily, completes schoolwork throughout the day, and even sleeps in an altitude tent – a sealed tent used to create an atmosphere with reduced oxygen. This schedule, combined with a rigorous diet and coping with sports-related injuries, is all in a day’s work for LaCosta. His unconditional dedication to his craft is admirable, and the consistent support of his family and friends is really what makes it worthwhile, he said.
“My mom is a huge advocate,” he said. He finds inspiration through her and his two younger sisters who persevere in the face of obstacles, like growing up in a single-parent home after LaCosta’s father, who worked in the World Trade Center, died in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
His history and personal accomplishments paint LaCosta as an outlier. His determination and resilience are apparent in the way he can pursue two rigorous paths simultaneously. In addition to his own racing, he uses his experience to coach amateur bike riders and advance the next generation of pro cyclists.
As LaCosta wraps up the fall semester, he’s looking ahead to his future career after MSU, but he’s already in training for next season’s “fatbike” racing– cycling that takes place in the snow.
His entire racing profile can be found on the official website for USA Cycling.
- Published November 2015
*Adriana Tapia is an English major at Montclair State University.