The more experienced racer often has different needs regarding the choice for at team. I’ll start off by saying that I advocate staying on the same team as much as possible. There is a cohesiveness that forms as riders get used to each others racing style and strengths. It takes months, if not years, for new teams to come together and perform as a team. I have only chased teams when my team went out of business or I have moved. I believe in commitment and loyalty.
Choosing a bike team can be as personal or impersonal as a racer wants it to be and there are a variety of people out there looking to race. I, however, believe that if you want to race on a team at the Category 3 level or above, you should be ready to participate as a teammate and not another racer in the same kit. Many riders can upgrade to full on Pros without much team work or knowledge, so I don’t assume that Cat. 3 riders are fully aware of team tactics. My Colavita team in Colorado won many races in the 3s and the State Team Championship due to team work and not necessarily having the best riders. An interesting footnote to this discussion is that Colorado racing is a bit different that other states. The racing is so fast here and the courses tend to be more challenging. (Koppenburg is a good example) Why is this important? It mitigates much of the teamwork opportunities due to fitness playing a larger role in race tactics. Other places with flatter, longer road races as a larger part of their calendar will have an affect on how much team work plays into racing success.
By now a rider should begin to understand their strengths and interests in racing. Finding a team that you fit into is key. If you are a sprinter, then look for a team that is in need of a sprinter. If you are a stage racer, look for a team that is interested in pursuing stage races. The discussions begin to be around how you fit in and what do they expect of you in return. Supporting other riders is important, as well as being supported. Are you interested in racing local or all over the country? Each team will have a different outlook on how that affects their sponsors and their goals.
Learning is still critical in a racers growth. There are Pros that are 30 still talking about how important experience is in racing and that they still need to learn. I like having other riders that have something to teach on the team. A good mix of ages and experience in each category is a good recipe for larger team’s success. Anyone looking to upgrade beyond Category 3 should be looking for teams with riders in the upper categories.
Sponsorship may begin to play a role at this level, however I wouldn’t expect too much still and I think that this is the least important aspect. I have seen a variety of sponsorship, everything from a nearly Pro deal to nothing but discounts after you have to pay a membership fee. Curiously enough, I think most racers are not looking to get the “deal.” I am a firm believer that sponsorship follows commitment.