Bike Racing as a Career

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Jim C
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Bike Racing as a Career

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I found this article and thought it might be of Interest to our younger members or their parents ..JC

By Paddy Doran, Level 3 Coach


As the final secondary school exams for many riders are now at or approaching their conclusion and student cyclists look forward to career choices some may be thinking of pursuing a career in professional cycling. Some may even be thinking of becoming a full time bike rider on completion of their exams. This article looks at a few aspects of this.


Cycling is a fantastic and very exciting sport to be involved in. At the very top level where it becomes your livelihood it is also probably one of the most difficult careers in the world. While it is a very glamorous world when we see the end result of the victor crossing the line or on the podium with arms raised. It is mainly a world of training / competing - resting - eating - travel - hotel rooms. And while this lifestyle is great for some people it might not suit every one.

If you are ONE OF THE VERY FEW who might have the ability to be reach the pinnacle of the sport it can be very rewarding financially. However professional riders who remain in the lower divisions of the sport are not inclined to make a lot of money.

It is a very particular lifestyle and difficult career. It is also precarious in the sense that if riders lose form or have bad crashes etc their cycling career can be severely damaged and may even be ended prematurely. Because of this riders should not put all of their eggs into one basket.

I strongly recommend that riders should develop their education and or another career as well as their cycling career so that they have other options if cycling does not produce a viable career.
(Quote from UCI Youth and Cycling Conference Lorient October 2000) Organised by Pat Mc Quaid UCI

Ouote from Maurizio Fondriest Winner of World road Championships 1988 - Milan San Remo - Fleche Walloone and the world cup . He has a total of 67 professional victories.
"In the early eighties, I raced, trained but in addition, I worked part time as a farm worker: cycle racing was and remained an important activity, but only ever collateral: in the event of any failures I was ready and prepared to "confront" normal life having fully understood the significance of exertion, work, the value of money and responsibilities."


Because riders peak for most cycling disciplines in their mid to late twenties it should be possible for riders to finish their education and or work on developing another career as well as their cycling career.

There is a positive benefit from following an education and employment path in that it develops self esteem - confidence - discipline, and life skills that will help you in your cycling career also. It will also reduce the pressure that many riders find themselves under to "MAKE IT" as some people say. Having a career choice will most likely improve your performance as a cyclist as you will be under less psychological strain to MAKE IT as a professional cyclist.

A talented rider should be able to follow a career or academic path and still perform well at a high level. Some of our most successful riders have balanced work and cycling successfully. This also develops discipline and organisation, which usually stands them in good stead when they are competing.

It is probably worthwhile doing some work with coaches and riders to explore exactly what is "MAKING IT" and is it the rider's idea of what making it is, or his parents, club mentors etc. Experienced riders or coaches should be involved in this work and the rider's long-term interest is the main thing that should be considered when doing this work.

Only the very best make it to the top of any sport. The signs will be there as a rider moves up through the grades and age groups. Particularly when they compete in international events, as to whether they have been gifted with the extra ability required to compete at the very top level.


A lot of success at underage and junior level does not necessarily mean that the rider will become a successful elite rider, as there can be discrepancies of maturity between younger riders, which translate to large differences in performances.

A thirteen year old could be biologically 16 -17 yrs old or 10 -11 years old according to their rate of maturation.

For example a rider who was struggling at less than 14 -16 years could be a rider who matures late and performs much better as a senior than some of the riders who may have been beating them at underage level.

The opposite can also be true and a rider who has matured early might win all around them at underage or junior level and then struggle at senior level.

This demonstrates the importance of encouraging and developing all young riders regardless of their perceived ability. Particularly helping them to develop a sporting lifestyle, which will benefit them later in their cycling participation.

TAKING A YEAR OUT to pursue full time cycling after the secondary school.

I believe this is only wasting a year that the rider could be working on his studies or career, which will enable them to become qualified in their early twenties when they can then give a lot of time to their cycling in the most productive cycling years when they are physically mature. It is often also difficult for the rider to get settled back into the discipline of combining education or work and training after a year of full time cycling.

*** Parents, Administrators and Coaches, what can you do? ***

- Encourage young riders to maintain some perspective on their performances and abilities.
A very high ability level is required to perform with professional cyclists.

- Encourage young riders towards career choices.
Very few make it to be successful professional cyclists.

- Ask the question,
" Will going full time at this stage produce a better rider and person or would the discipline of balancing work or study and training produce a more rounded person and rider for the time when they are physically and mentally more mature and can gain greater benefit from large volumes of training"?

Paddy Doran is a qualified cycling coach and tutor to cycling coaches. He Represented Ireland as a junior and senior cyclist. He has thirty years experience of coaching at international level. Riders coached by Paddy have won four of the last ten FBD Milk Ras (Ireland's primer stage race). He has been director of Coaching for Cycling Ireland / ICF . He was winner of the overall Tutor of the Year award in the National Coaching and Training Centre Coach of the Year awards in 2000.
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