I would like to know your thoughts about the professional cyclist’s career path and how it relates to my situation. All of my life I have been an ardent cyclist but have never taken up the sport competitively. I have been thinking about racing for some time but have been unable to do so while in school as I have had to balance my studies with part-time work to pay for my education. I have ridden in the past with accomplished cyclists and always done well. I just have not formally raced. Now that I have graduated from college I am looking at cycling as a career with more seriousness. Currently I am working in a job that, while undesirable, allows me ample time to train daily (and relocate if necessary as the work is freelance). Clearly I am very confident in my abilities and dedicated to earning a livelihood from bicycle racing as soon as possible so that I can quit my current job and devote myself entirely to the sport. I am very disciplined and motivated and I ride everyday.
My questions are:
1) What is the minimum amount of calendar time in which one can go from Cat 5 to Professional? Is it necessary to be a Cat 1 racer in order to turn professional? Could a very impressive Cat 3 rider, for instance, catch the eye of a team and turn pro or is their some kind of rule that forbids any but Cat 1 riders from upgrading to Pro status? It seems crazy that a rider who is capable of professional-level riding would have to waste time in Cat 5-Cat 2 in order to get enough points to “upgrade”. If a Cat 5 rider goes out and posts times similar to Cat 1 rider wouldn’t it be insensible to limit him to upgrading only to Cat 4? I have not found any information about this kind of case but it seems that USACycling would have to allow exceptional riders to skip Categories if they consistently demonstrate their ability. My urgency stems from my desire to join a team as soon as possible so that I can start making a living from my riding.
2) I am more interested in the European emphasis on longer road stages than what seems to be the American emphasis on intensity i.e. Crits. Given this, what would be the best path for me to take to race in Europe? Should I first establish myself in the US and then lateral over to Europe? Is transferring from US cycling to European cycling something that can readily be done despite the apparent differences in the two disciplines? Would it be best (and possible) to start my amateur career over there and progress up the ranks without even getting involved in bike racing here in the US? If not as a Cat 5, what category would I need to be before I could begin racing in Europe?
3) Do you have any suggestions that would help me on my path (which at this point is entirely self-directed)? Are you aware of any resources where I may find further information that would provide answers to these questions?
I sincerely thank you for the time you have taken to read this post and would be very appreciative of any feedback you are able and willing to provide. See you on the road.