So You Want to Turn Pro – Part I

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Becoming a professional rider isn’t as straightforward as you might think. There are many amateurs winning all over Europe and beyond. So in a series of tips on how to make the step up, here are some suggestions.

Background

Imagine you’re an amateur who’s just won a pro race, you’ve left big ProTour teams trailing and even the Olympic champion couldn’t match you. You’d hope to turn pro.Now imagine you build on this win with a victory in the Tour de l’Avenir and then take the U-23 World Championships. You’re set for life!


All that bling but the phone don’t ring

Only this is exactly what Romain Sicard did last year. He won the Subida al Naranco whilst riding for the modest Orbea team and left Samuel Sanchez behind. He won the biggest U-23 stage race in the world and then took the rainbow jersey in Mendrisio. But not one French team called him.

My experience
One team manager joked that if only I could descend as fast as I climbed then there might be opportunities. But I’ve raced with a few guys who stepped up to the pro ranks and have done very well. They were very good but not the level of rider winning World Championships. In my experience they knew they wanted to turn pro and applied the same steps as you’d take to get a job anywhere else: exploit contacts, polish a CV and get your foot in the door. Raw talent is only part of the equation.

The CV
Teams hear about many riders but having a slick CV is a good thing. List your key results and other achievements on the bike, especially if you can show progress from year to year. Plus add a section on what type of rider you are, perhaps mentioning your wattages or at least your height and weight.

Then add more about your personal life. Mention your education and other activities, for unless you are a stand out rider, teams will be interested in your background. Do you speak good English, can you speak other languages?

Adapt and Advance
One former team mate was head and shoulders above everyone else I’ve known. He lived like a monk, trained twice a day and rivals would base their race tactics on trying to hold his wheel. Only he never turned pro. He was a stagiaire with a pro team and didn’t want to change his training methods, didn’t like working for others and more. Now I think the team made a mistake in rejecting him but at the same time, all the riders who I’ve seen turn pro are often the most open, they will learn from a race or change their diet. They might win at amateur level but they are not content, if they can use a power meter to learn to tricks then they are open to it. They’re not happy being amateurs. In short, like any hungry recruit you need to say “how high” when a DS asks you to jump.

Network

Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Build up contacts within teams, try to contact the managers. If you are getting results at international level, don’t expect the phone to ring. If some teams are scouring the world for talent, most are not and just rely on word of mouth. Often a pro is noticed when a DS or friend of the team happens to drop by an amateur race, they don’t scan the results.

So You Want To Turn Pro – Part I
So You Want To Turn Pro – Part II

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