You take a kid, an average kid, a kid who’s Dad loves him and wants him to experience what he wasn’t able to in his youth. You take that same kid and pair him up with a guy who spends his entire life living a bicycle experience. A guy who got to travel the world, race, teach, and live bicycles. A guy who almost broke through but was missing just one element.
Finally you take that same kid and put him in the right time and place.
Wait – we still need one last element. That average kid needs passion, he needs hunger, he needs DESIRE!
He can not just talk, his actions need to scream over his words.
12/15/14 “I’m not gonna brag.” says 15 year old Sean McElroy. He had just destroyed about 10 local Strava segments on the morning ride without saying a word during the ride about them. Inside he couldn’t wait to upload his GPS and crush the spirits of his team mates and riding buddies. But it is totally positive. Just be better than yesterday, that is all it takes.
12/16/14 “My elbow hurts, and I kinda have a headache”. It’s the very next day. Same trail, possibly better time… Sean is dirty, his bike upside down, his helmet packed with dirt. This is what people don’t see. Remember Wide World of Sports – The Agony of Defeat! Every person in those clips were world class athletes – the best of their discipline. It hurts to be good! None of this comes easy. When it all comes together like yesterday you are on top of the world. Today – reality. It is cold, it is misting and ready to rain. Your legs are sore from yesterdays efforts, you’re hungry, the bike is miss-shifting, and full of tumbleweeds. But you’re out there putting in work. This is what separates a local rider from a champion.
This is the day in the life of Sean McElroy – 7 time National Cycling Champion (1 BMX, 2 MTB, 1 Time Trial, 2 Road 1 Crit). More State and Regional titles than he can remember. For the past 3 Seasons he has been on the Specialized Factory Jr. Development Team. But he has never for one second forgot where he came from. Now coaching the Jr Devo team at the shop he grew up in he isn’t just giving back – he is living the lifestyle. Ask him and he’ll tell you, this is what made him fast. Find someone faster and race them until you beat them. It has taken Sean 5 years of doing just that. Right now, right this very moment he has crossed that threshold of hierarchy. He has claimed the local title and no one can dispute it. In his mind this is just local, business as usual. He is a National Champion, he has won races in Europe, and he beats top pros at races all over Southern California. Of course he is gonna crush the locals in his town!
Take a step back. A few years ago at Interbike (after winning 3 National Titles that year) Sean and his Dad (Norm), ran across Greg Lemond (Norm’s cycling hero for decades). Ironic doesn’t even begin to describe the meeting. Greg is with his son, Sean is with Norm. The show is about to end and everyone is anxious to leave. After an introduction and explanation of Sean’s accomplishments Greg stopped and was fully engaged for over a half hour. He took a huge interest in Sean and shared advice and experiences. Greg was a junior – just like Sean. The conversation felt like one that next door neighbors would have. Sean and Norm left Interbike in Vegas that year hitting the jackpot! These are experiences that happen just once in a lifetime and change everything!
The point to all this is that you need passion. You need to find something that you love. Grab it, hold on to it, and let it take you to a place that you never imagined. Sean is a 15 year old kid. Sure, he likes video games, food, and girls. But there has to be a balance in order to be great! There is so much sacrifice. Sean could be your brother, son, grandchild, cousin, etc. He is a friend, mentor, coach, son, student, and of course Champion. Sean is a product of finding what your are gifted with and putting 100% effort into it. When he walks into the local grocery store no one knows who he is. But, when you put him in his element he is a legend. Hopefully his story will influence more kids to drop the electronics and do something physical. You don’t have to enter, let alone win races to have passion. You do have to show up! But we do need healthy influence. Sean is becoming a young man who will look back on his childhood and be very proud. Not just of his event results but the fact that he is a reason people get dressed and ride their bikes. When he shows up and rides with the kids that he coaches they light up! He brings the best out of them. Only the future will tell but it is quite possible that he’ll be writing this story in the future about a kid that followed his advice and climbed to the top!!!