Humble, grounded but not satisfied: Scottish rider Sean Flynn's WorldTour ascension

DSM have signed a rider who they believe can develop into a potential winner of hilly Classics

Sean Flynn signs on
(Image credit: Alex Whitehead/SWPix)

Sean Flynn had been on a year-long job interview with Team DSM, the WorldTour team inviting the Briton to numerous training camps to figure out if he was worth offering a contract to or not.

They clearly thought he demanded further investigating, but Flynn was on his best behaviour every single time. “It’s all well and good being strong on the bike, but they wanted to know if I would fit in and be a good member of the team,” he tells CW. “I guess it was an audition. Imagine if I turned up and I was really annoying?”

Fortunately for Flynn, 22, he kept whatever irritating side he may have in him suppressed (spoiler: we’re pretty certain he can’t be annoying), and he impressed DSM enough for them to offer him a two-year contract, becoming the first Scottish rider in a WorldTour team since David Millar retired in 2014.

“Actually, that does mean quite a lot to me,“ he says. “There’s nothing I could have done about the lack of Scottish riders in the past decade, but I’m there now and it makes me proud to be the first one in a while to break through.

“I’ve grown up here, I’ve raced here, and it’s credit to the work from a club level right through to Scottish Cycling. I’m sure I’m not going to be the only one of us at this level for a while and hopefully it’ll have a snowball effect.”

Flynn pursued a multi-discipline approach to his cycling since he was a child, winning junior national titles in cyclocross, mountain biking and circuit racing. He will find time in his off-season to visit his first club, Edinburgh Road Club. “I hope that what I’ve done will inspire some younger riders to see that it is possible,” he adds.

“When someone can identify with someone from the same place, I’m convinced it gives them an advantage to go after that. Hopefully I can be that help for someone. 

“I’ve not always been the best at realising my position, and I think no one would be bothered to turn up if I went along. But it’s nice to see kids and how excited they get. But I still feel like a bit of a kid chasing my dream. To me, I’ve not made it yet.”

Olympic dreams

That comment is in contrast to what a 16-year-old Flynn told Scottish Cycling after he became a double junior national champion in July 2016. “In the future I would like to become a professional cyclist,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to become one of the world’s best, competing highly at world championships and the Olympics.”

He laughs when asked to expand on his changing meaning of ‘made it’. “If you had asked me four years ago what it would mean to make it, I’d have said to turn pro with a WorldTour team,” he reflects. “It’s all perspective. Anyone who achieves any level of success in anything is doing so because they are never quite satisfied; nothing’s ever quite enough.

“I am definitely someone who when I achieve something, I immediately want the next thing. I don’t ever really settle. If I get to the stage where I am an established rider having a long-term career, then I guess I could say I’ve definitely made it. But it’s hard to pin-point.”

Quick learner

Flynn only fully transitioned from mountain biking to the road at the start of the 2021 season, and he has enjoyed some impressive results in U23 and minor UCI races, showing his talents on hilly parcours with a reduced bunch contesting the finish. “I think I made the transition quite smoothly and found my feet quite quickly,” he says.

“But I know I still lack some experience in the real sharp end of races, and there are nuances in terms of the differences between being on the podium or in the top-10. Yet, in saying that, I’ve shown myself as one of the top riders in races I have been doing.”

He has now joined a team who prioritise youth development; indeed, 19 of the Team DSM’s 27-man roster in 2023 will be 25 or under.

“It’s definitely exciting to know that I will be part of a team that I can have an impact at,” he continues. “The team aren’t putting loads of pressure on me and they’re not expecting crazy results in the first year, but I want to make a difference and any opportunity I get I’ll take it with both hands. 

“I know how hard it will be to step up, to be at the front and even fighting for a win, but since the start DSM have been very clear with what project they have in mind for me, what aspirations they see for my future. 

“Basically, I just want to be myself. I like being part of a team, committing to my job whether that’s as a domestique or a leader, and as long as I have the legs I will be a useful part of the team. Hopefully the byproduct of that is that I will be racing for a long time at that level.”

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