I wrote about how to turn pro before, this is a follow-up to that piece.
Join the right team
Many amateur teams send riders into the pro ranks every year. Not just because their riders are strong, but because they are recommended by the team staff as well. If you are capable of winning, then winning with one of these feeder teams should bring a contract.
Countries like the US, UK and Australia all have national structures, a rider can work closely with their national federation as a path to the pro ranks but if you are not in this system, don’t be afraid to try elsewhere. Better still, these feeder teams are often well-managed and don’t attract the crooks and witchdoctors that can ruin both your name and your health.
Play to your strengths
If you are Belgian and can climb, don’t waste your time in the kermesse scene of Flanders. This might sound obvious but it applies all round the world, if you are a good sprinter in Spain then move to a French amateur squad and so on. Above all, don’t compromise your gift, if you have a speciality, use it. In the pro ranks riders can specialise even more, so if you are a climber, target the right races rather than suffering in flatter races.
I don’t remember the rider’s name but one French rider was driven by his father to the Dauphiné where the father and son laid siege to the French teams in their hotels. The rider had some solid results and felt he could progress and thanks to the lobbying, he got a ride as a stagiaire and never looked back. Note the timing here, it was exactly when team managers begin to think about recruitment for the following season.
Put the hurt on
I guy I know did a small race with some pro teams and had a fine day. He made everyone’s legs hurt to the point of annoying the pros. But whilst they didn’t enjoy his sadism on the day, they thought “if this guy can make my legs hurt, it’s better he joins our team” and sure enough, the rider in question turned pro despite not actually winning that much as an amateur but he’s a recognisable strong pro. He never had the ability to win big because he couldn’t sprint nor climb but sometimes making the legs hurt is good enough.
Even the slowest of pro riders was a champion once in the amateur ranks. But at the same time, many talented amateurs never enter the pro ranks. Some might have prodigious abilities but that doesn’t bring a contract. Indeed, it’s safe to say that some fine riders have been overlooked simply because they didn’t job hunt. The jobs market is not perfect here, like so many jobs it can be about who you know.