For many regular riders the idea of being a professional mountain biker sounds like the ultimate dream job, travelling around the world riding the newest bikes, the most technologically advanced parts with top mechanics at your beck and call.
But is it all hunky dorey at the top, and if so, how do you get there? We took time out with one of the most respected team managers on the circuit, Nigel Page, to see what it takes to get to ride with the best, and how to stay there!
We get many requests from riders all around the world looking for sponsorship deals, so how did most of today’s pro racers get sponsored, and how does Nigel go about recruiting Team CRC/Nukeproof riders?
“Most of the top riders get sponsored because they win races and are able to get on World Cup and World Championship podiums. As well as this it helps if a rider has good style on the bike and gets noticed by the media. Great style and winning races will make a rider popular with the media which is what sponsors want.
“I recruit our team riders by past results; if I like their riding style and attitude; if I think they have potential to get to the podium at the World Cups and as I have learned more over the years, if I think they will fit in with the team dynamics well and can offer what our sponsors need from our team.”
Sometimes in the scrum to get noticed it’s difficult for riders to stand out, so what’s the best way to stick your hand up higher than the rest, be seen and get a deal?
“To win at the big races! If you can do this, then you will get a factory team ride. If you haven’t done this already then you need to show you have the potential to do this.
“Also work on your image and get media coverage, try and be creative and as well as racing do some filming that looks good to watch and shows off how well you can ride. But if it’s getting on a factory race team that you are looking for, then you need to win/podium at National level and be posting times with the fastest guys. Then get yourself out to the World Cup races and prove you can be one of the fastest racers and be popular with the fans and media!”
How has the internet with social media/YouTube etc changed the way riders are getting noticed?
“It’s helped a great deal. Riders are able to make and upload videos of themselves to showcase what they can do on a bike and it gives potential sponsors an idea of how hard they are willing to work, and if they look like that have the potential to be a top world class rider!”
What’s the most common misconception about riding professionally?
“I would guess that people on the outside might think the top riders just get to ride their bikes and have fun all the time instead of working a proper job! That is how it looks from the outside but they don’t see:
• All the hard work riders have to put in over the off-season, training in crap weather, having to push your body and mind way beyond what is comfortable.
• How hard mentally it is to win at the highest level.
• How scary it can be to have to ride at the speed you have to – to win!
• Being away from home and your family/friends for long periods of time can also play a negative part on riders especially if they are not on a winning streak.
• When you’re winning and doing well it’s the best job in the world, but if you are not, then it can feel like the end of the world!
“There is a lot of pressure on a rider to perform and get results because if you don’t, you could be out of a job the next year. Unlike most normal jobs! Results are facts and if you’re not getting them, you could be off the team and out of a job.
“Then there are the injuries! Apart from the pain they cause you, it takes a lot out of a rider to recover and re-train to get your body back to 100% plus your mind which is often harder than the physical recovery!
What’s the best thing about being a pro rider?
“The best thing is getting to ride and do what you love to do as your job! There is also nothing better than the feeling of victory, winning races!”