Sean Quinn is ready to debut his Stars and Stripes jersey at the Dauphiné

Catch up with the new US champ before the important pre-Tour de France race

May 31, 2024

Sean Quinn is back in Europe, ready to show off his new US champion’s jersey at the Dauphiné.

After a tough spring, beset by a concussion and broken sternum, the American champ is approaching his best form before the important pre-Tour de France race. Before it gets started, we caught up with Sean to talk about his comeback, earning his spot in the pro peloton, and DJing and surfing in L.A.

Sean, congratulations. You’re the US champ, about to debut your Stars and Stripes jersey in the WorldTour. How does that feel?

It’s nice. I never won nationals as a junior and that was always a big race for me. I’ve gone back the last two years and been one of the strongest guys in the race, but been frustrated, missing opportunities and stuff. Now, it feels like I’ve finally got it done. It feels good, but maybe hasn't really hit me yet. When I pull on the jersey for the first time, it'll be pretty cool. It's a cool position to be in, to be able to represent the country. It makes me super proud.

Take us back to the champs. How did the race play out?

It was my first race in almost two months, but I had been riding super well in training, so I didn't really know what to expect. Straight away I knew my legs were good. I had to follow McNulty across to this big move that Neilson was in and never felt like I had to push. And then by the time it was down to Neilson, McNulty, and me, I was basically just waiting it out. I was like, 'okay, I still feel good, I still feel good, I'm just going to wait till the last lap and then we're going to start taking turns attacking him'. I got a flat tire at a pretty bad time and had to waste what could have been a big move just to chase back on. I was lucky to make it back. From there on, Neilson and I just took turns attacking. We’d both agreed before the race that we would be happy if either of us won. By the last 10k, it was pretty clear that McNulty was strong and we weren't necessarily going to drop him. So, we decided that I was going to wait till the sprint and let Neilson keep trying. I was pretty confident in my sprint, but got boxed in, so I had to come around the other side and almost ended up losing. I didn’t.

How did your friends react?

My friends in the States are pretty pumped about it. To them, it’s just like, 'oh, my friend is the best rider in the country, period'. They're excited for me and that's always the best part of winning races, just giving friends and family something to smile about.

Was it a dream come true?

Sean as a kid would be pretty pumped. I mean, there are different iterations of Sean as a kid. One of them would be like, 'wow, that's so amazing, even just being a pro cyclist, but national champ: unreal'. And then Sean five years later would have been like, 'man, this was your first nationals and you're 24? What a joker'. I went through different phases of confidence But here we are and I'd like to say I’d be proud of myself.

Does this help you feel like you have established yourself as a racer?

It’s really easy when you're a U23 to think, I’m going to go to the WorldTour and just fly my first two years. You don't quite realize that it is the combination of 10 to 15 different age groups and all the best guys from each year. You're the fresh blood and you just get so hyped that honestly, you do kind of fly in your first races, but at some point you have a race in your first year where you're like, 'wow, what am I doing here?' You’re way, way out of your depth and that’s a good kick in the teeth. I'm sure everyone has gotten that, even the guys who fly and win 20 races in their first year. For me, I got my ego kicked a little bit. I was like, 'wow, I am the rookie here'. You have to relearn racing and try to improve slowly. It’s unfathomable how many mistakes I've made, but I've never, never left a race empty handed in terms of new knowledge gained. At a certain point, it's like, okay, is this just going to go on forever? Am I going to be learning, learning, learning, career done. I don't know. At some point, once you put in your 10,000 hours, you're supposed to be a master and I’m just trying to get there. I still don't feel like I've proved myself on the European circuit this year.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve drawn from your time in the peloton so far?

Maybe the biggest thing I've learned is perspective. Especially in your first year, and for me last year, my second year, I was so hungry to prove myself and break through that it basically never really happened. Now, I've kind of realized that, okay, if I put in the work and the time, eventually it will happen, but I can't just grab it. It'll come when it comes, and I have to enjoy the process more and not the results. You enjoy the results too of course. You know, you grow up in America and you're taught to try and be the best. So, I have bigger aspirations.

Now, you are at the Dauphiné. What are your goals here?

One of my biggest goals in cycling is to make it to the Tour. So, it’s all in for the Dauphiné to see how far that gets me. All I can do is my best. The dream would be to win a stage in this jersey. It’s been a while since that's happened and all the Americans in cycling would be happy if any one of us could do that. To be the one to do that would be super special, but I have to get there first.

You mentioned your injury. It’s not been an easy road for you these past months. Tell us about your comeback.

I crashed at the Tour of the Basque Country. It wasn't the worst crash of my career personally, but looking at the other guys involved in this crash and their injuries, it was definitely the most horrific crash I've been involved in. It happened on stage four. The race had already split in the crosswinds, so there was just crazy, crazy high tension. We went over this small climb into this technical downhill, which led straight into the decisive climb of the day. Everyone was really fighting for position. I was moving up around the left side in maybe place 30 or something and suddenly guys just started crashing. There was this explosion of bodies in the middle of the peloton. I was coming up on it at like 85 kilometers an hour, so I didn't really have a choice. Either I could run into all the guys on the road or try to go off the road. We were going so fast. Instinctively, I jumped off the road, but there was this big storm drain or culvert, whatever you want to call it.I couldn’t manage to stay upright over that and ended up landing upside down or something. I stood up, which was obviously a good thing, but immediately I was super lightheaded, and then I had a bunch of other concussion symptoms. I was super lucky that after a week, I didn't have any problems, and I was able to get back to training. The bigger issue was that I broke my sternum and that takes four to six weeks for the bone to heal. I was lucky it was a stable fracture and it was pretty high up on the bone. So I was not in that much pain, especially after the first week. It was more just the muscles around it. I had to work with the physio a lot. I’m lucky that I was able to train through the injuries. I just couldn't race. So, I missed the Giro. You can't really think about what ifs. You have to look at the opportunities you're given. I’m a national champion now, so that's an upside, and I got to spend time with my girlfriend and my friends back home. That's an upside. And now I'm back racing in a European peloton.

What do your friends think of this journey you are on?

Some of my friends back home are cyclists and they know how hard it is. They know what's going on. Then, I have my other friends from high school and college who just have no idea what cycling is basically. They are just like,' oh, you get to travel; that’s so cool. Did you win? Why are you not even ranked in the top hundred?' That is always funny and it's fun to have a bit of an alter ego. These guys have no idea what I'm doing or how my racing is going, so I can just bond with them and not even talk about bikes. I did go to college for a year or so. I was studying business, maybe partying is more like it, and I got a taste of what that life is like, but at the same time it was like, 'okay, semester's done, now I'm going to go race in Europe'. All my friends now are just doing the same thing the whole year, whereas I have this alter ego and I'm over in Europe traveling, seeing the world and totally dialing in my cycling.

Most of the highlights from my time in racing have come from my teammates, not from the races, just hanging out on the team bus. When I came to the WorldTour, I was kind of like, 'okay, now these guys are more my coworkers than my friends; you can be friendly and build good relationships, but I'll probably never be really close with these guys'. But now, I feel like I have broken through that barrier and built true friendships with a lot of guys on the team. Compared to all my friends who are working on Wall Street or whatever, we just see these things that too often I take for granted, but you look over while you're racing up a mountain and it’s the most beautiful view you've ever seen. The dream is to win a race and your teammates cry tears of joy. If you can build relationships like that, then I think you're doing it right. And that to me that means way more than the result itself, because winning is nothing without your friends.

What do you like to do off the bike?

When I'm in L.A. I go surfing a bit, go to the beach a lot. And then, I produce electronic music. I try to do it a couple hours every day, which works really well with cycling, because during the season I can just whip out the computer while I'm on the couch.

Music is a huge part of my life. What is life without music? I don't really know, because of the way I grew up. My parents were very musical, and from a very early age I was shown the importance of music. It’s almost like I couldn't live without it. I always have a song in my head, 24-7. There is always a soundtrack to my life. I love how you will go through a period where you're just listening to a song and then three years later you put on that song and it takes you back. Music is also an instant mood changer if you want it to be. I can't even describe how important music is to my life, because what’s life without music?

What I'm most into right now are emotional EDM bangers, so songs with a deep meaning that a lot of people can relate to and are hopefully catchy and then you’ll have that high energy drop that will make you want to dance and make you feel the emotion that the lyrics convey even stronger. I draw inspiration from a lot of different artists and a lot of different life experiences.

When I was back home, I surprisingly didn't make as much music. I'd say the last two months have been the most focused I've been on my bike racing. Not that music takes away from that at all. I just went and spent time with my friends. We were in Colorado. My girlfriend works there, and I have a really good physio there who I've worked with in the past. Also, it's at altitude. So those three things combined made it the right place to be for the time. Every day I woke up and the whole focus of my day was trying to fix my injuries and training and eating properly. Other than that, I didn't do anything crazy. I did go to a concert at Red Rocks once, and then I went to an NBA playoff game, to watch my Lakers lose to the Nuggets, which was pretty sad, but it was good entertainment.

Now that I'm back at races, hopefully I'll have some more time to keep working on the music.

Thanks Sean. Before we let you go, who is the worst DJ on the team bus?

Oof, I might get canceled for saying this, but I'm not really a big fan of reggaeton, so make of that what you will.

We won't tell Rigo. Good luck at the Dauphiné!

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