‘Whatever happened to Sean Newington?‘ says me to Vik.

The next day, Vik’s back on the phone: ‘he’s in Belgium – I saw his name in the results.’

Time for that detective work!

Sean’s enjoying his racing in Belgium.

How long since you raced in Scotland, Sean?

“Oh, a long time – three years, I think.”

Why leave the UK?

Sean hasn’t raced in the UK for several years.

“I got some good results in Premiers and fancied trying it abroad; racing with the best, to see where I could go.

“Initially, I got help from Braveheart, I stayed at the Sean Kelly house and eventually got an invite into a team.”

Why Belgium, not France or Italy – more suited to your build?

“I thought about France but I’m not a great linguist and you have to speak French and have contacts to race there; whilst in Belgium a lot of people speak English.

“There’s more racing in Belgium too; there are still a lot of local kermesses which you can just turn up and ride.

“And in Italy, it’s more complicated, I think you can only have one foreigner per team.”

How long is that you’ve raced here?

“This is my third season, and my second full year.”

How did you get set up?

 

Sean’s team, Heist-Zuiderkenpen.

“Brian Smith helped me, three seasons ago when I was just 21. I stayed in the Kelly house but moved on to living with a family.

“Initially it was with Braveheart but they changed the criteria and I had to make my own way.

“I made some contacts and stayed with Tim Harris (ex British pro champion).  I arrived with just my bank card, clothes, bike and bag, and that was two years ago – eventually I was approached by a club.

“I changed clubs twice, the first time because they were going for younger riders and the second time because the team I was with didn’t have as good a programme as they said they would.

“I’m with Heist-Zuiderkenpen now. it’s a good set-up, as far as riding as a team and race programme goes. We’re in the ‘Top Comps’ riding against the Pro Tour team feeder teams – Davo for Lotto and Beveren 2000 for QuickStep. I was racing against Adam Blythe last year, for instance.”

Does the club supply a bike?

“No, but tyres, equipment, all the clothing and you get frames at a really good price. We don’t have a specified bike for the team, but like I say, you get help.

“The team car picks me up to go to races – but the family I live with me are happy to give me the car for travelling to races, if I want.”

No help from Braveheart now?

“No, they changed the criteria for providing funding.”

Sean is getting to ride a good programme.

Will you be racing in the UK?

“I plan to come back when there are breaks in our team schedule; but the programme is getting fuller all the time – we have events in Germany and Holland, but I want to come back for the Nationals and some Premiers.”

How long do you think you’ll stay?

“As long as I can! I plan to live here, I’ve had so much fun.

“I’m going to language school in September to learn Flemish, properly.”

Were you home for the winter?

“I was back home for a month, but I spent most of the winter here.

“I got a job in a window manufacturing factory – I couldn’t get a job back in the UK.

“It’s a good thing because it means you spend more time training with the squad and get to know then better.”

Sean (in blue) takes an easy left.

What’s been your best result?

“I’ve had a top 20 in a Top Comp. But I haven’t had great results this year so far, I was sick for three weeks in the winter.

“The form comes though, if you’re riding 150 kilometre races with 200 rider fields.

“The racing is very aggressive; it’s not like Scotland where you can sit at the back then surge to the front when you feel like it.”

Goals?

“To see how far I can go – eventually, hopefully to turn pro.

“I’m at this level, riding Top Comps – and now I want to move up to the next one.”

Turn pro or not, respect to Sean for getting himself out to the Heartland – and thanks to him for talking to us.