Read as Georgia Gould talks about her career as a Professional Bike Racer. Find her at www.georgiagould.com and on her Twitter Feed in the sidebar of this interview.
What do you do for a living?
I am a professional cyclist. I race mountain bikes and cyclocross.
How would you describe what you do?
I get paid to race bikes. However, race results aren’t the only thing that my sponsors are looking for. Being approachable and available at events and being a good role model are also important.
What does your work entail?
My work entails training and racing bikes, making appearances at events, teaching clinics, among other things.
What’s a typical work week like?
It depends on the week. In the winter and spring, I am usually at home putting in lots of time on the bike. I usually ride 6 days a week with 4 of those days being in the 3.5-4hr range and 2 lighter recovery rides of about 1 hour. I have a 30 minute yoga workout that I do almost every day to maintain my flexibility and core strength. During the racing season, I am often traveling and I end up riding my bike a little less- when I am not racing, I am usually recovering. However, during days when I am “off” I still need to be serious about making sure I am healthy and well-rested.
How did you get started?
I started racing for fun, but I had a few decent results at big races, and I wanted to see how far I could take it. It was hard when I first started racing pro because I was still working part time, and I had to train hard enough to compete against people who were paid to be full-time athletes. I had a little help from a local sponsor and my parents, but I was pretty broke, and it wasn’t very sustainable. Luckily I made enough of an impression that year that I was offered a contract with a big team.
What do you like about what you do?
I love riding my bike! I like the flexible schedule- I can decide when I want to train. I enjoy traveling and my job has taken me to so many amazing places.
What do you dislike?
My job isn’t very stable- I am lucky enough to have found a spot on the longest running team in the US, but every year teams and sponsorships come and go- it’s easy to find yourself out of a job. Most contracts are probably 1-3 years long.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I get paid a salary plus bonuses. I also get to keep the prize money I win in races (though this doesn’t make up a very big chunk of my income).
How much money do Professional Cyclists make?
This is one of the tough things about my job. There isn’t really an average for this. Each person has his/her own unique worth based on race results, personality, marketability, social media following, etc. There are some professional cyclists who make no money and have full-time jobs and some who make more than $100,000.00/ year. Every contract is different though (in terms of salary, bonuses, other obligations), so it really is an individual thing. There is less money available in the mountain bike side of the industry (compared to road racing), and I think there are probably less than 30 pro mountain bike racers in the US who make a salary they can live on.
How much money did/do you make starting out?
My first year on a pro team I made $10,000.
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?
No specific education requirements. Being able to ride a bike fast helps, and being able to market yourself (via social media, etc) can really help.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Staying motivated through a whole racing season and through tough times when I am not riding or racing well.
What is most rewarding?
Getting to ride my bike in beautiful places all over the world and meeting lots of interesting people. Knowing that I have inspired lots of women and girls to try sports means a lot to me. Seeing my fitness and technical skills continue to improve over the years is also very rewarding.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
It’s great while it lasts, but I think it’s tough to turn it into a career once you retire (it can be done, but I think you have to work really hard). It’s not a very permanent job- things like injury, illness, even the economy can effect your earning potential. I recommend having some kind of plan B- definitely don’t put off going to college.
How much time off do you get/take?
Depends on your definition of “time off.” I usually have a few weeks in the winter when I am totally off. Throughout most of the year, I have plenty of days off or rest days, but it’s not the same as a weekend when you leave everything at work. This is a job you take home with you.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That I get to “see the sights” of everywhere I travel. In truth, I get to travel to some amazing places, but usually I am only there for a few days which are spent training on the course and resting/recovering in the hotel. Sometimes it can be pretty boring.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I hope to continue racing my bike even after I retire from professional racing. I’m not sure what other career opportunities are out there for me, but I am a hard worker and I’m sure I will think of something!
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
I think that pretty much covers it.