For anybody who is coming to the end of their racing season, one of the things you will no doubt be thinking about is who you are going to be riding for next season. Given the costs of racing nowadays, it often seems to be a good idea to ride for a team. This can be a minefield, so we’ve enlisted a new writer – Starley Primal’s Tanya Griffiths (who won the elite women’s Tickhill GP this year) she’s here to give you some valuable tips:
Starting the Process
So, how do you get on a team? There are two ways; either you will be approached by a team manager or director sportif (generally riders who have had many notable results and are highly sought-after), or you apply to a team. Probably 90% of team riders are there through application rather than head-hunting, so if you haven’t been approached by a team, that is no reflection on whether or not a team would want you to ride for them.
Make sure you know why you are applying
When selecting the teams you want to go for, you need to decide why you want to join a team, because every team is different. Maybe you want a group of riders to get together with so that you are not so alone when you go to races? Or are you attracted to the professionalism of a team, where you get the support of mechanics and soigneurs and get the fancy kit and the bikes and make a real show in front of the crowds? Or are you after results, do you want to be a part of a team that gets good results and always has their riders at the front of the peloton? Do you want to be amongst riders that you can learn from – where you are the support rider for the team, or one that you can lead, where you will be the supported rider? Is a team that rides with tactics and a clear game-plan important to you? If you’ve paid enough attention at races, you should be able to pick out the teams that are geared towards your goal. But be realistic. Don’t waste your time on a team that you are not suited to. One year’s racing isn’t enough to apply to a UCI team. That being said, there is nothing wrong with being ambitious.
Do your homework
Firstly, make a note of all of the teams that you have seen out on the circuit this year. If you are not sure, take a look at race results. The British Cycling website has a team rankings list, which is useful for this sort of thing (although you will have to click on each team to see if they are a women’s team or not). Follow teams on Twitter and Facebook and check their website if they have one. These places are where they are likely to advertise for riders and should provide contact details (usually an e-mail address).
Facebook groups are also a good way of finding out about new teams that might be starting up. If there is a local cycle racing group page, make sure that you are a member. The London Women’s Cycle Racing group is also a good one to be a member of, even if you are not based in London, because they have a large following and it is therefore a good place for new teams to advertise.
How do you apply?
So you’ve got your potential target teams, then what? Sending an e-mail to a team manager saying that you want to ride for them is not likely to get you anywhere. If you do get a response, it’s likely to be a polite request for your CV. You must look at it in the same way you do when applying for a job, which in some ways you are, although it’s more than likely not a paid position.
A team manager will want to know how you will fit in the team. Whether that’s the level of rider you are, the type of rider you are, or your character. They will also want to know what you can add to the team.
Preparing your Palmares
Your palmares (a list of your achievements) will play an important part in your CV, although maybe not as much as
you might think. Put together a list of your achievements this year and anything of note in previous years. They will be looking for something meaningful, so a mid-week win in a race with 3 riders will not say as much about a rider as a 25th place in a national series race, so make sure you think that way about what results you include. You want them to
sum up your level as a rider, so if you have taken part in a stage race, include this result even if it is not as good as you would have liked, that you have experienced a stage race is of benefit to the team. Also, if you came 2nd or 3rd in a race behind a notable rider, include who the winner was. This helps the team manager understand the level of competition that you had in that race.
When selecting which results to include, also think about what sort of races the team is likely to be doing and the type of races you would want to do. You may have decided that you are better at stage races, or longer distance road races, so balance your results to show these types of races. Alternatively, you might want to focus on criterieum races or racing on the track, so show these. Most teams will want versatile riders, as they are not able to support enough riders to have those that specialise, for example, in crits and those that specialise in road races, so ensure that you do show results from your less favoured disciplines too.
You’ve got your palmares sorted, now what? This is your chance to talk a bit about the side of you that your results don’t convey. Very few riders believe that their results show their strengths as a rider, so this is your chance.
You need to think about why you want to join that particular team. Make sure that you tailor what you write to suit that particular team, as you would with a job. Don’t write one generic CV and blast it off to any and every team that you can get contact details for.
Why are you applying to that team specifically?
They will want to know why you want to ride for that team. “I just want to ride for a team” is unlikely to get you anywhere. They also want to know what you will bring to the team. You will need to tell them about your strengths, what type of rider are you? Are you a strong climber, sprinter, support rider, good all-rounder? You may not yet know. You also need to be honest and tell them what your weaknesses are. If you climb like a sack of potatoes, tell them. You won’t feel comfortable turning up at your first race for the team on a course that doesn’t suit you because you twisted the truth a little bit on your CV. The team may ask you to still ride races that don’t suit you, but it will feel much better if you’ve told them. You might also include areas that you are currently struggling with, for example, technical cornering, but also include how you are addressing this weakness.
Get the introduction right
So, you’ve now got your palmares and you’ve told them what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you will bring to the team and why you have chosen to apply for that team. You will also need to include a short introduction to yourself. Tell them something interesting that will give you personality. If you work, what is your job, are you still at school/university? What are you studying? When did you start cycling, is there a nice story of how you got into the sport. What inspires you as a cyclist?
Sponsors expect professionalism
Once you’ve got this together, it is really important to remember that a team is looking for someone who is going to represent their sponsors. Professionalism is very important both on and off the bike, your attitude and actions will reflect back onto the sponsors. Try to include something that will indicate that you will act responsibly and professionally. Sponsors are after promotion, so if you have been in the local paper, write a blog or do any other promotional work, include this. A sponsor may see you as someone who will provide them with added opportunities to advertise them, so it could bring an added dimension to your application and will give you something to bring to the team that other riders may not have.
Bringing everything together
Now you need to put this together into a complete CV. I would suggest no more than 2 pages, keep your paragraphs clear, concise and to the point. Punchy, not wordy, some teams will receive hundreds of applications; they simply won’t read it if there is too much information. Think about the layout, make it look attractive. Include photos, but think about why you are including them. Each photo should be there for a reason; does it show you in a break-away? Riding amongst top riders? You on the attack? It’s a good way of showing the type of rider you are and will provide an attractive element to your CV. Take a look at CVs on the internet for inspiration. It’s not a work CV, so don’t be afraid to add some colour, but don’t go over-the-top. Never lose sight of what your CV is for, keep it legible and clear, but make it stand out!
Don’t forget to add your contact details. Your e-mail address and telephone number are vital. You don’t want to be in a position where a team wants you but can’t contact you!
Once it is complete, you are happy with it and you have asked other people to read through and check it for you, put it into an appropriate format. A pdf is the most common format, but you may be an IT whizz and create a website for your CV (just make sure that the link works, it’s easy to use and not open to Joe Public if you don’t want it to be). If you do create a website for your CV, it is a good idea to have a pdf version of your CV too, as some team managers will want to print all of the CVs out to go through them, rather than look at them on the computer.
Job done? Not quite – you will need to write an opening e-mail which will quickly introduce yourself, explain the reason for your e-mail and highlight that you have attached your CV. This e-mail is important, as it’s the first impression that they will have of you, so think about what you write. You don’t want them to dismiss you without reading your CV. And MAKE SURE YOU ATTACH YOUR CV! It’s always a good idea to include any attachments before you write the e-mail. Sending another e-mail saying “oops I forgot to attach it!” doesn’t give a good impression, although don’t panic if this does happen to you, we’ve all been there!
Clean up your “online presence”
So, CV sent. Time to bite those fingernails and wait for a response! There’s nothing you can do about it now? WRONG! Remember what you told them about being a professional and understanding the importance of promoting a sponsor in the right way? Well that starts now. Potential teams and sponsors might be reading what you put in your blog, twitter, facebook, instagram etc… go through your old posts and delete anything that doesn’t represent who you want them to see. Once you have sponsors, you are in the public domain. If you are one of those people who thinks “it’s my account, I’ll write what I like”, you are unlikely to be the type of rider that a sponsor is looking for. So keep it positive, don’t “slag” people off, keep swearing to a minimum and avoid writing anything that is overly offensive, rude, prejudice or political . You never know who might be watching!
When waiting for a response, remember, teams don’t make up their minds straight away, they want to see who applies and build a team around who they want. It may take months, so be patient. All teams generally respond in one form or another, so be patient. You may get lots of rejections before you get a call from an interested team.
Tanya Griffiths rides for Starley Primal Pro Cycling and is the organiser of the Women’s Eastern Racing League. You can follow her on Twitter @TanyGriff . The Women’s Eastern Racing League is also on Twitter: @WERLeague