By Jerry Reid
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 17-year-old Pedro Martins is putting miles on his bike and body for Miller School of Albemarle’s riding team while preparing to ride for his home country in the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond September 19-27. To say he will be focused, dedicated and ready for his debut in the Worlds would be an understatement. He will bring many lessons learned from his school’s top-notch endurance programs and the Virginia High School Mountain Biking competition.
“If I start a race, I will finish it. I will not have that [an unfinished effort] on my mind for the rest of my life,” he stated emphatically while prepping for a three-hour practice run as Miller’s only participant in the Worlds.
From the small coed boarding school in Crozet to the hot lights of the big stage in Richmond, the best scholastic junior category riders will put their talents on display to worldwide television coverage. An estimated 450,000 spectators will be on hand for the event.
Andy Guptill, the head coach of the bike program at Miller, is giving current and prospective student athletes in the bike program all the work they can handle. The 18-and-under team at Miller is well managed as they pursue competition in the events for junior riders.
“This is a level where pressure is low. The intended consequence of this is providing a fun window into the sport. There are events in the state and Southeast and all over the country that we could compete in,” said Guptill. Part of last Sunday’s ride for the team was training for an event this week in Vermont, an example of the travelling nature of the biking world.
High and middle school students populate the national scene in junior programs, with Miller joining the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and competing at events all over the country. Road racing categories and a form of motocross for bikers are among the disciplines young riders could pursue.
Some day soon there will be riders from Miller and all over Virginia who will compete at the Worlds, representing the USA. The big show feeling of all this is not lost on the staff and students at Miller. “This is the first time the event has been in the U.S. in decades,” Guptill said. “It is a really big thing. This is what makes it resonate with us. It is amazing to see this just flourish for junior riders.”
Martins quickly understood that being in the U.S. creates much more opportunity. He began in competitive biking after listening to family members who were in love with the Tour de France. He started in Brazil, “but most of my opportunities for junior racing have been at Miller,” he said. He gave another sport, Go-Karts, a whirl in a country that reveres the memory of three-time World Grand Prix Champion Ayrton Senna da Silva. Senna, a Formula One driver who died in 1994 in a crash at San Marino, is a hugely beloved figure because of his charitable works in his home country, and because he also stood up for increasing the safety of Grand Prix racing when it wasn’t popular to do so. Familiar with the legendary driver, Martins said, “I always raced Go-Karts, but never thought of being a professional racer.
“I’m taking some engineering courses that might work for me,” Martins said when asked what his school goals were. “Competitive cycling is not forever, but there is a way . . . there are support personnel, mechanics, instructors.” Mechanical engineering might be in his future, he said, as he looks forward to his career when his riding days are over.
Choosing the bike over motorized transportation, Martins sometimes feels that “when I ride my bike, I’m glad I’m not in my car,” he said. Awakening a social conscience, this young man is impressive with his thoughtfulness. Perhaps he will emulate Senna and dedicate part of his life to helping struggling people in Brazil.
Meanwhile, “I will try my best, I will never give up,” he said.
The roster for the Miller School of Albemarle Endurance Team is below. Find more information, videos, and pictures at www.msacycling.org.
Senior; Vienna, Virginia
Senior; Natal, Brazil
Senior; Boston, Massachusetts
Junior; Quebec, Canada
Junior; Sao Paulo, Brazil
Junior; Hagerstown, Maryland
Junior; Jacksonville, Florida
Junior; Miami, Florida
Junior; Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sophomore; Sao Paulo, Brazil
Freshman; Sao Paulo, Brazil
8th Grade; Charlottesville