Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. Military Cycling team co-founder's death at 46 unexpected, unjust

Bike racers have a reputation for arrogance, and if any local rider could be excused for displaying attitude it was Sean Coleman, a reigning age-group state champ with several appearances at the World Military Cycling Championships to his credit.

And yet, when his "A" group whizzed past the "B" group on Sunday rides, Coleman was the least likely to bark at them to give way, the most likely to offer encouragement.

"He wasn't one of those snob riders, if you know what I mean," said Mike Long, a veteran cyclist from Spring Lake.

Some racers' lives are so consumed by their sport that they don't do much else.

Coleman, 46, of Land O'Lakes, who died of a heart attack on a training ride last Wednesday, was a Coast Guard senior chief petty officer stationed in Clearwater.

A 27-year veteran with a crucial job — supervising the mechanics who maintain the station's rescue helicopters — he took on a volunteer duty that was almost as demanding.

As a director and co-founder of the U.S. Military Cycling team, he courted sponsors, recruited riders, traveled to training camps and races, and spent long hours at home doing administrative grunt work, said his wife, Sharon, who helped with the team.

"You have no idea how much of this we did at our desk, at night and on weekends," she said.

Some top racers are mostly just concerned with other top racers.

But Coleman helped expand the team, which started with only a few elite riders, into a group of 120, including developing riders.

The plan, Coleman told me when the team came to Pasco County for a training camp last winter, was to expand it further to include riders interested in fitness and recreation.

"He had a passion not only for riding, but for coaching … for mentoring other riders," said another team director, retired Lt. Col. Bill Jacobus of Seattle.

Sometimes with riders, there's an us-versus-them mentality.

But Coleman said that one of his goals in bringing the training camp here was building the community — promoting the hilly region of eastern Pasco and Hernando counties as a winter cycling destination. And he said he hoped to do more of this after retiring from the military.

"I see this area as having tremendous potential for cycling tourism," he said.

Some racers reserve the right to climb off the bike and onto the couch; rest is as important as riding, they say.

But even though Coleman trained exceptionally hard — "full-throttle all the time," said Ellen Kast, co-owner of the Tampa-based wheel manufacturer, American Classic — his time off the bike was time for his wife and his son, Taylor, 15, who has cerebral palsy.

"He was full throttle with his family, too. They were No. 1 with him," Kast said.

He liked having dinner with other families in the neighborhood, Sharon said. He loved going to movies with Taylor, riding with him on a tandem and traveling with him to races.

They were also regular visitors to Action Wheelsport, a St. Petersburg bike shop, said co-owner Anne Lynch.

"He would bring his boy in here, and he was so loving and took such great care to include him in his world."

After Coleman collapsed during an evening group ride on the trail along the Suncoast Parkway, Facebook exploded with the news and tributes to his strength and generosity as a rider. Along with formal services on Monday, there was a memorial ride on Saturday morning that, despite the short notice, drew more than 300 cyclists. Sympathetic emails have been pouring in since his death, and a steady stream of visitors has dropped off food, said Sharon Coleman.

The depth of this shock is really no shock at all.

It's hard to imagine anyone less likely to fall from a heart attack than the super-fit Coleman, hard to imagine anyone who deserved it less.

"The injustice of him leaving so young is hard to take," Lynch said. "He was a gem of a human being."

U.S. Military Cycling team co-founder's death at 46 unexpected, unjust 07/16/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 10:19am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dade City's Wild Things blocks PETA officials at gates for court-ordered site inspection


    Times Staff Writer

    DADE CITY — Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show.

    Dade City's Wild Things founder Kathy Stearns refused to let People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals officials enter her facility on Thursday for a court-ordered inspection, court filings show. This comes four days after 19 Wild Things tigers arrived at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma. A judge had granted an emergency injunction July 14, ordering Stearns not remove any tigers pending the upcoming PETA inspection. Photo from Facebook page of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma.
  2. St. Petersburg City Council approves $326 million sewage fix


    ST. PETERSBURG — Last week the City Council learned no criminal charges would result from the up to 200 million gallons of sewage St. Petersburg's sewer system released from …

    [LARA CERRI  |  Times]
  3. Pasco commuters watch out: Broken water main restricts State Road 52

    Public Safety

    NEW PORT RICHEY — A water main break has caused a portion of State Road 52 — one of the busiest roads in Pasco County — to buckle on Thursday afternoon, reducing three lanes of westbound traffic to just one.

  4. Man taken into custody after live streaming drive along Clearwater Beach sand

    Public Safety

    CLEARWATER — Clearwater Police took a man into custody Thursday afternoon after, they said, he drove his car over beach chairs and umbrellas along Clearwater Beach and streamed it on Facebook.

    Clearwater Police took a suspect into custody Thursday afternoon after he drove along Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, running over beach chairs and umbrellas. [Courtesy of Clearwater Police]
  5. Once trapped and wounded, manatee and calf return to the wild


    NEW PORT RICHEY — The small crowd readied cameras and craned their necks, peering over heads and through bodies to try and catch a glimpse. Brittany Pharel, 10, wanted to see the hulking manatees, a mother and her calf, laid out on blue tarps Thursday along the edge of the Pithlachascotee River.

    Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo's associate veterinarian Lauren Smith, 33, examines the heart rate of a manatee calf named Cottee just before it was released into the waters of the Pithlachascotee River on Thursday. 
Cottee's mother Pascow was released at the same time in New Port Richey. 
The pair became stranded in May and the mother was found wounded. They needed to be rehabilitated before they could be released into open waters. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]