The next installment of choosing a bike racing team is geared toward the higher lever racers. Not that they need the advice, but it seems this topic is of interest to folks new to cycling.
The transition from Category 3 to 2 is a big one. So many racers end up racing masters or retiring after this upgrade. Category 3 is 80% of the time raced independently of the higher categories in larger states and often Category 2 is raced in conjunction with Category 1 and full Pros. I would say that 95% of the races I have competed in are P12 races. The very large national level races will separate out Cat 2 riders and occasionally a local race will give the option of a 2/3 race and a P12 race.
Why is this important? It plays into how a team is set up to race. If you are racing national level races, a team might need to have 1 and 2 teams so that the Category 1 guys have teammates. If you are racing local, having enough 1s combined with 2s should work out OK.
Again, I think at these upper levels it is critical to believe in team work. Riders are so fast in each of their strengths that it is rare to find a rider that can TT, sprint and climb competively. Many folks can achieve all-rounder status, competing in the top 25% in most categories, but even that is tough. What generally happens is that a couple of riders per team are good at each type of racing and teams have to find a way to support them in those races. Team work is still not guaranteed at this level and many teams duke it out with each other as much as they work together. A team that shows cohesiveness still has a big advantage.
Sponsorship begins to play a much larger role in team’s recruitment efforts and rider selection. Whereas many teams will accept an unlimited number of lower category racers, it usually takes getting selected to be on a team in the 1-2 level. There is much more scrutiny on performance and more pressure to achieve results since the financial commitment from the team is usually greater. I have seen this element have a HUGE variation depending on team’s values, what region it is in, and the ability of team leadership to market. Everything from a free ride (races paid for, equipment free, etc.) to just a free kit can be a part of the sponsorship. A newer expectation is being a part of social media and other sponsor promoting activities outside of racing your bike. I think this evolution is a good thing and will give a better direct correlation to sponsorship and exposure.
The overall team direction may play a role as well. Is the team attempting to achieve UCI or Domestic Elite status? Does the team have links to Pro teams or riders? Many riders may be looking to make a career out of cycling and will find that cycling is like many other businesses. It is who you know, not what you know (do) that will make the difference in finding a pro contract or being suspended in Cat 1 status forever.
Next up – Why I choose Sonic Boom Racing.