IT’S A BIT HARD TO BELIEVE but at the beginning of the year Sean Smith was racing Cat. 5 on the road, doing his breakaway laps solo at Floyd Bennett Field as if he were out doing a little training. Sean came to road with a pretty impressive MTB background, but still the way he handled himself in his first road races with such authority and confidence only foreshadowed what was to come.
After completing his obligatory 10 Cat. 5 races, he started doing the 4s, and I, like many riders, suffered trying to hold his wheel. I recall one race at Prospect Park early in the year. I was in a break with Sean and my current CRCA/Foundation and road teammate Steve Magyera, as well as Adler’s Mitch Jacaruso and a couple of other guys. Each time we hit the hill Sean turned the screw just a slight bit more, and each time up the hill one of us got dropped. I know for a fact that Steve, Mitch and I were in excellent shape at that time (we all moved up to Cat. 3 this year), and motivated to win that day, yet our efforts were clearly nowhere near what Sean was able to do. It was profoundly humbling. Eventually, Sean won that race solo, by something like two minutes. Still, it wasn’t a complete shock to me, as I had raced against Sean the week before at Bethel, where he dropped the field I was in to win the Cat. 4 race solo, then still get a money-paying spot in the Cat. 3-4 race an hour or so later. Well, Sean went on the win more races and cat up quickly. He ended his first road season as a Cat. 1. Sean has since been invited to ride with a newly formed Jelly-Belly feeder team in 2011.
Sean has written about his later exploits doing races around the state and beyond on his blog, but perhaps one that I will always remember from this season is when he lined up next to Cervelo TestTeam’s João Correia and several of the local heavy hitters for the pro/123 race at Floyd Bennett Field. I was still a Cat. 4, so I was able to watch the end of his race once mine had finished. Sure enough, Sean rolled in solo for second place that evening, having almost caught the leader and finishing well ahead of the blow-apart field. For the record, Sean was DQ’d later as apparently he wasn’t technically supposed to be racing in the pro/123 race yet, but the real story was that Sean had shown he was capable of doing well at Floyd in the big boys’ race, considered by many New York riders to be the toughest race in town.
So let’s see: MTB, road. Next up: cyclocross. And so it was a week ago that I saw Sean racing at Beacon Cyclocross, where he started at the back of a big field and rode up to fourth place in his first-ever ‘cross race. The next day, at HPCX, Sean had a slightly better start and won the race, finishing solo. That was in the B men’s field, which is the “middle field” or Cat. 3s. He didn’t bother doing the C men’s races, and after his good performances last weekend, he lined up for his first elite race this weekend in Northampton, Mass., at Adam Myerson’s Cycle-Smart International Cyclo-Cross, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. As he had no UCI points, Sean had to start at the back of the field, but he rode impressively to move up to 17th by the end of the race. “It was a tough but fun race,” he said. Today, he gets to start closer to the front.
Sean joined team CyclingReporter.com after last weekend and is now flying the After-Eight-dinner-mint colors of the CyclingReporter.com skinsuit. We are pleased to have Sean join our ranks, obviously, and wish him the best of luck. We look forward to following not only the rest of his ‘cross season but also his future in cycling, including the 2011 road season. We’ll enjoy having him as a teammate as long as possible, for he certainly has a future in this sport.