TOANO — Adam and Emily Croft never expected cycling to be as big a part of their life as it is now, training about 12 hours a week.
It all started when their father, Paul Croft, took up mountain biking for exercise five years ago and brought Adam and Emily with him on races. Since then, the competitive cycling has become a family affair, as Adam and Emily are of the top cyclists nationally in their age divisions.
Adam, 11, won the national championship in road race for the 10-12 age division at USA Nationals in Augusta, Ga., several weeks ago, while Emily, 13, placed eighth the women's division. In 2011, she won the Virginia High School Mountain Bike Race Series for the girls, taking first in all six races.
Emily said she wasn't really into road racing until about a year or two ago, focusing on her first love, mountain biking. For Adam, it didn't really matter, as he was on a bike since the age 3.
"He's the only person I know that can do a 100-mile mountain bike race and then want to ride his bike," Paul said.
Adam and Emily belong to a local cycling team, James River Velo Sports. They compete in races mainly in Richmond, Charlottesville and in the Hampton Roads area. The farthest they've traveled is Madison, Wis.
Adam also belongs to a national team, Garmin/Slipstream, which recently added him to the Junior Development Team roster, giving him the opportunity to compete in more races at the national level. Adam also has a coach based out of Texas that gives him a routine daily. It changes depending on which race Adam is preparing for.
Emily tags along on Adam's routine, which is usually two hours a day. An example of training one day would be to ride for 30 minutes, then go to the bottom of steep hill near the Croft's home. The training called for pedaling up the hill eight times as hard as you can for one minute.
"I tried it a couple times and I finally just sat halfway up the hill and waited for them," Paul said.
Though Adam and Emily train together, sibling rivalry doesn't get in the way. They don't compete in the same classification, which allows them to support and cheer on one another.
"He's way faster than me, so it's more of seeing if I can hang on and not trying to beat him," Emily said.
After finishing third last year in the road race at USA Nationals, Adam devoted a year to focusing on road racing so he could "win the jersey" and the gold medal in his return. Part of the training Adam gets from his coach is race strategy, which came in handy in the national championship in which he finished first.
"Every lap, you attack in the same place, but then you let up because after a while, other racers will expect you to do that every single time you attack," Adam said. "But with three laps to go or whatever, you just attack and keep going because they won't chase as hard."
With road racing, Emily and Adam will race in their age groups and then also race in the adult division, so that when the family travels to races they get to participate in two races.
The travel can be challenging, as Paul Croft and his wife, Melanie Croft, also have a 2-year old daughter, Hannah Croft, who's Adam and Emily's biggest fan. On the road, Adam and Emily like to read, which is a favorite activity outside of biking.
While Adam says he'd like to become a professional cyclist, Emily says she doesn't know what she'd like to do as she gets older. The racing won't stop any time soon though — Hannah will be the next competitor in the family.
"She has a little trainer bike with training wheels on it, so she's always trying to ride," Paul said. "It's definitely a family deal."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun