Updated 30th March 2019 Paddy Doran Cycling Blog
Tough times for Professional cycling
I have updated this blog to take account of the current environment in Professional road cycling. See this Article from the Guardian in 2017 which explains the challenges for Pro teams.
Things seem to have deteriorated further in 2018 with a number of the smaller teams folding completely. Sticky bottle recently wrote an article describing the impact of teams difficulties on a number of Irish riders. There’s quite a list of Irish riders now out of contract.
Is it worth chasing the Pro dream ?
The answer to that question depends on many things. For me with my coaches hat on the big question is, will it jeopardise a young cyclists education and ability to have a career outside cycling.
Will they be able to earn a living for themselves at something they enjoy doing if they can’t make a viable career from cycling.?
Will they be happy?
A recent interview with Irish Cyclist Daire Feeley also raises questions in this regard.
The route from Irish cycling to professional cycling.
So back to the original blog …..As a new cycling season approaches. Young cyclists, their parents and coaches may be dreaming of being a professional cyclist. The dream part is easy. What’s the reality? how do cyclists make the transition from amateur to professional.
What is a Professional?
And before we look at making the transition, lets define what’s meant by professional. From the Oxford dictionary “Engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation” So professional cycling is about making a career that pays.
No Pay = amateur
Cycling on a team where you are not paid really means that you are an amateur.
As a character that I once worked with used to say when someone said thanks to him for doing something for them. ” how many of them does it take to buy a pint?”
Professional cycling is definitely one of the more difficult professions. At World Tour level where the real money is there are a few hundred of the most talented, hardest working cyclists in the World. So to break into that you are going to need special qualities
Sean Kelly Making the transition?
To answer the Question of how an Irish rider can become a professional cyclist. We should look at the great story about Jean De Gribaldi taking a private plane to Ireland and travelling the highways and byways of Ireland to find Sean Kelly and sign him as a professional rider..
Win races !
So why did De Gribaldi make that big effort to seek out Kelly? The answer is simple enough, Kelly WON LOTS OF RACES in the previous season in Europe including the Amateur Tour of Lombardy.
Stephen Roche was the same having success in the major Paris Amateur classics and winning the Amateur Paris Roubaix the year that he was offered a pro contract.
Sam Bennet made the pro ranks after a very successful tour of Britain where he got results beating some of the top Pro sprinters. The rest of the current pro tour Irish riders also got results in the big races as amateurs.
Results are king
If a rider is going to be employed and PAID as a professional cyclist he or she will have to stand out from the rest. The way to achieve that is by consistently getting RESULTS in the best races.
The simple route to a professional career
Getting good results in Ireland while still following studies or work should be possible for a rider with the ability to be a top professional. Work towards selection for Cycling Irelands youth, junior and U23 squads.
This is where there will be opportunities to race against world class competition in the big events. This will also be where Professional team managers and coaches identify and recruit future riders for their teams..
What if you don’t make National teams
If you don’t make the Irish Squads you can still make a breakthrough to the pro ranks. By racing in Holland, Belgium or France for periods of time you will get opportunities to be identified by team managers and make the steps through the various levels of competition ..
If you are getting the results teams will want you. It’s that simple. So if good enough, and smart enough, you could make the steps through the different levels and eventually be selected for some of the teams that are feeder teams for the pro teams.
The Belgian Project
The Belgian Project is one way for young cyclists to sample racing abroad in an organised manner. Danny Blondeel and his hardworking team has worked hard developing this programme over the last number of seasons check it out.
Is your results page full or blank?
The bottom line at this level is results….(remember /de Gribaldi and Kelly) Imagine meeting a team manager.. and he / she asks you for your results.
What will you have to show him/her? If you are not getting results when racing abroad don’t expect people from another country to care about you. Because in general they won’t!
What if your just not good enough?
A tough question to ask but a necessary one. And the important thing to realise that this should not define you as a human being.
Look on it statistically. If a rider is training well, racing lots of races and not getting many results?
That’s likely to be a consequence of them not having the ability to move to the higher levels and not as a consequence of bad luck.
And if you can’t get consistent results in good Irish Racing there’s not much chance of making the steps to Pro Tour. So no results or big performances usually means there’s not much point in travelling abroad with a view to becoming a well paid Pro
What if you stall at u23?
Some riders make progress along the way but it becomes more difficult as they move through the levels. We see it all the time where the rider seems to flatten out at a certain stage and results just don’t happen.
This could be a short term problem like overtraining, nutritional changes or illness. However if there are no problems then its most likely the rider is just hitting his or her genetic ceiling.
The decision could be made for them when this happens as the team will probably just fill the slot with the next rider that the manager thinks can get results for the team.
Coping with disappointment
Its tough if a rider has given a lot of their energy to a dream that’s looking like its not going to happen. However how they cope with it could depend on their view of themselves. Parents and coaches hopefully will have been a positive influence in this regard. Self esteem
Education and life skills from racing abroad
However, apart from trying to become a Professional. Some periods of racing in other countries could still be a worthwhile experience for any cyclist. And there’s always the option of being a very good domestic cyclist enjoying your sport meeting friends and having a happy balance in life.
The experience could broaden your education of life. Learning new language, experience of different cultures and much more can still be a very worthwhile experience.
Whatever the route. Enjoy it.
Paddy Doran High performance Cycling Coach for Peak Endurance Coaching. Trainer, coach to Winners in life and cycling. Contact
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