El Cerrito High grad, cyclist participating in the Tour de France


Fewer than 200 cyclists worldwide qualify to participate in the annual Tour de France, and this year one of them is a rider from El Cerrito.

Sean Bennett, who started competing with the El Cerrito High School mountain bike team, is one of eight members selected for the South African team on the 23-day tour, which began Saturday and covers over 2,100 miles over 23 days.

A portable traffic warning sign has been placed on Arlington Boulevard in El Cerrito, which announces the participation of Sean Bennett as one of the elite riders to qualify for this year’s Tour de France. (Chris Treadway / for Bay Area News Group)

Bennett’s selection by South Africa, making him the first American to ride for the team, was overshadowed internationally by his teammate Nicholas Dlamini, the first black South African to start the tour. Bennett, 25, is decidedly the favorite in the hometown of El Cerrito, where a portable traffic warning sign has been placed on Arlington Boulevard announcing his participation as one of the elite runners to be to qualify.

“It hardly strikes me, but how huge it is,” said his mother, Pam Bennett. “Being part of the Tour de France team is like a dream come true for him. I still pinch myself.

Bennett was suffering from a sinus infection the day before the tour began, his mother said, which is minor compared to last year when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted his training. Bennett learned he contracted a new coronavirus “just before a race,” his mother said. “He had to travel to his home through three countries,” she said. “He ran less than a month and a half later. I think he was very lucky, but you never know about COVID in the long term. Most of the runners who got it are OK.

Sean Bennett, 25, above, who attended El Cerrito High School, is one of eight members selected for the South African squad during this year’s 23-day Tour de France, which started on Saturday and covers over 2,100 miles over 23 days. (photo courtesy of Pam Bennett)

The riders of the team he was on at the time were sent to their home countries and left to train on their own.

“He was stuck here for about three and a half months and was training here,” Pam Bennett said. “He was able to come back last year to very limited races.”

The fact that Bennett was able to recover and regain his form is testament to years of conditioning and training. Like his two older brothers, Bennett got into competitive cycling with the El Cerrito High mountain biking team. Their mother was also involved as a parent club president and coach for some time. Although Sean Bennett had started cycling earlier with his family, “high school was the most important thing in introducing him to cycling,” said Pam Bennett.

During his high school years he also rode with the Whole Athlete team in Marin County, finishing first at the national championships, and after graduation he competed with the road cycling team. under 23 Hagens Berman Axeon.

“It was really a lot of really hard work on his part. It certainly wasn’t easy,” said Pam Bennett. “He didn’t just make it to the top teams. You have to race really well for be taken into consideration. It takes a lot of concentration and work. ”

Sean Bennett, above, competing with the El Cerrito High School mountain bike team in 2014. Fewer than 200 cyclists around the world qualify to compete in the prestigious annual Tour de France, and Bennett is obviously the preferred competitor in the world. ‘El Cerrito this year. (photo courtesy of Pam Bennett)

Among those who have followed Bennett avidly since high school is El Cerrito Police Lt. Lauren Caputo, a cyclist himself who got to know Bennett and his brothers while working as an agent. student resources at El Cerrito High.

“Sean is an incredibly hard-working, dedicated, motivated and motivated person, and I am very proud that he took part in the world’s first cycling race,” said Caputo. “That’s what he wanted to happen, and it’s amazing.”

Caputo wanted the large community to share in the pride and arranged for the city’s mobile bulletin board to be placed in Arlington Park, near the family home, where he informed passers-by about Bennett’s feat.

“I want people in the community to know what he accomplished just when he got there. Just being in the race is a great achievement, ”said Caputo.

“There are a lot of runners, a lot of competition. He needs all the support he can get from the people back home.

Pam Bennett, who will be traveling to France to attend the final 10 days of the tour which ends July 18, wanted her son to know the people back home are shooting for him.

“I just sent Sean a picture of the sign Caputo put there. I think it goes a long way in helping him feel good,” she said. “El Cerrito is a small community. , but she is so united. ”

Chris Treadway is a former journalist, columnist and editor of the Bay Area News Group, specializing in community news and local history.


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