They've come by the hundreds to the beach at Jac�, a small resort town on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast. Hour after hour they mill about, reaching for him, hoping for his signature or perhaps just a snapshot. After defeating 20 riders in a local motocross race earlier in the day, Adrian Robert, a national legend at the age of 35, smiles as he signs and signs. "I have been riding bikes for 25 years, so at small events they will come to me all day, sometimes just to talk," he says. "It is nice to be recognized, after all the sacrifice."
Not that the decades have been particularly brutish for Robert, Costa Rica's most decorated motocross champion. From the time he was 12 his after-school hours (along with most Saturdays, Sundays and holidays) were spent at a local track near the family home in the Curridabat section of San Jose. His dedication paid off: Robert has won 35 national titles in various classes, along with 14 Latin American championships. In a country where motocross is second in popularity only to soccer, Robert happily satisfies a national hunger for sports stars. "It has been an honor to expand the sport in Costa Rica, to have worked with so many of our young riders," he says. "I remember how I was when I was young."
He was, in a word, fearless. As a boy Adrian watched with envy as his brother Arturo, five years his senior, rode motorbikes at the family farm in Guanacaste, another Pacific beach town, five hours north of San Jos�, near the Nicaraguan border. In 1977 Adrian finally persuaded his father, Fernando, to let him ride. Two years later he won his first national championship in the 80-cc under-15 age group; two years after that he won his first open-division title (125-cc class), defeating, among others, his big brother. "I wanted to beat him badly, from the first time I rode," Adrian says of Arturo, who is now his manager and mechanic. "Wanting that taught me the value of practice and hard work."
Though he's still focused on his riding, Robert does welcome distractions these days. Three, to be exact: his sons Derek, 7, and Mark, 2, and daughter, Alexa, 6, who shares her mother's mild distaste for Daddy's job. Derek has already started riding dirt bikes—at Robert's private track, about 25 minutes from the family home—but not surprisingly, Robert sees special things in the younger boy. "Derek is very good, but Mark...." He is momentarily lost in thought. "Mark could be a great champion someday," he continues, with a laugh. "He reminds me of me, when I was young."