League Alumnus Sean O’Donnell (Rochester Composite Team, 2012- 2013) won two US Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships this past Summer, in the Men’s downhill and Dual Slalom. He’s a student athlete at Western State Colorado University, studying Business Administration with an Entrepreneurship emphasis. Sean took time from his busy schedule to share some of his insights on mountain biking after high school.
Tell us about your current cycling career.
I currently race downhill and dual slalom for collegiate. I raced Omnium in the 2016 season which is cross country, short track, downhill, and dual slalom. This summer I made the switch to only downhill and dual slalom. I switched because racing gravity brought back the joy and fun of riding bikes for me. I have had lots of success in the two years I have been racing downhill and dual slalom. I won the Cat 1 Downhill and Dual slalom National Championship, won Angel Fire Pro GRT and received my Pro license for both disciplines.
What was your athletic background/history prior to cycling?
Growing up I was always in at least one sport. I wrestled for many years, played baseball for many years, along with lacrosse and hockey. I played hockey and lacrosse in high school and was named captain and was starting varsity goalie.
When did you fall in love with mountain biking?
I don’t remember how old I was or the year but I feel in love with mountain biking after the first time riding single track at Eastwood in Rochester. My brother came home after his ride and told me to grab my bike, which was a bmx bike, and to come try ride some of the obstacles and features. I was able to ride some of them but tried all of them. I had so much fun I wanted to keep coming back.
What’s your training schedule like?
To be honest, this year’s training schedule wasn’t structured and I’m not sure if I can really say I had one. I was working 40 hours a week during the summer so I only rode a few times during the week. My job did help with my strength. I raced almost every Wednesday which was a relaxed and fun race with all the friends. During the school year and collegiate season, I try to make one or two practices a week and then race on the weekends.
How do you balance school/sports/social life?
It can be a struggle sometimes to balance everything but if I have a set schedule, I’m usually more productive which makes it easier for me to make plans. This fall and most falls I would go to work in the morning two to four days a week, go to classes, go to practice, either hang out with some friends right after or go home and get dinner, do some homework and either invite people or go to a friend’s house. Living in the dorms my first year made it easier to have a social life because everyone is 10 seconds away.
Favorite MN HS League race/moment?
It is hard to narrow it down to only one race or moment but my last season I had many sprint finishes with Sam Olson. The closest one we had was at Elk River and it came down to the thousandth of a second. I remember showing up to Mankato for the State Championship race in a sling and Sam was really bummed because he was going to let me out sprint him because it was my last Minnesota High School Mountain Bike race.
What’s your favorite place to ride?
My favorite bike park to ride is Angel Fire Resort in New Mexico and my favorite place for trail rides is Snowshoe, West Virginia.
Where’s your “bucket list” ride?
My bucket list ride is to ride in Squamish, British Columbia
What does a typical training day and week look like?
A typical training week during the summer for me is go to work from 8-430 than go for a trail ride on Tuesdays and Fridays unless I’m traveling than usually only Tuesdays. On Wednesday’s, I head up to Crested Butte for a Wednesday night series race. I didn’t have a very structured training schedule this year but for the collegiate season, after class on Tuesdays, I would do either a trail ride, have a skills day, or ride dirt jumps. On Wednesday’s, I would do shuttle laps and on Thursday’s, I would shuttle Doctor’s Park which is a high country/back country trail. Friday’s were traveling and Saturday’s and Sunday’s were race days.
After graduation plans?
My current plans after graduation is move to the Pacific Northwest but that’s all I have planned for now.
Future cycling goals?
Currently my plans for cycling is to gain some experience racing professionally at a national level and see where that takes me. My 2018 goals are qualify for every Pro GRT entered and gain some UCI points.
Some of my life goals are working in the cycling industry and running my own businesses.
Any words of wisdom for MN League riders?
Some advice for the high school riders is to always have fun. You do not have to be the fastest racer to have fun. Biking is a lifelong sport and you will make a lot of great memories.