So you wanna be a Pro?

10th November 2014

By Dan Atkins

Photo credit: Delly Carr

Racing against our “elite” athletes should never been seen as a holiday in the sun. Over the past 5 years I have seen the rise of races in every corner of our country, in every month of the year! Amazing to think of how many 70.3 (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run) events there are now on.

With the amount of races the interest in our sport is unsurmountable to ever before. We are seeing fields of over 50-70 “elite/ professional“ level athletes toe the line in every event. Where they come from I have no idea.

However, with Josh Amberger (pictured), I do know where he comes from! Josh and I used to train together about 10 years ago and was the little blonde-haired kid I had always thought would race as an elite triathlete. But ask him whether he feels like a professional and he answers with his usual intelligence. The first thing I know about Josh is he doesn’t race as a traveller experiencing worldly travel in the back seat of a bus. He races to live and lives to race, usually always from the front.

Josh believes that once he can move out of the comfort of his family’s home, pay off a mortgage and live comfortably investing money rather than living race to race, then and only then he will classify himself as a professional. And just think Josh is winning as well as podium performances 8 out of 14 events this season not to mention the top ten performances overall. But so often I see athletes travelling well one year, lost to the sport the next.

How do you gauge whether you’re ready? Nothing is certain in this sport however Triathlon Australia has set up a National Performance standards list to give up-and-coming professional athletes the best guide.

Two time trials 1000m swim in a standard Olympic 50m pool and a 5000m track specific run to test your capabilities and more importantly give you a gauge against the world’s best triathletes. This formula for our elite juniors works. The fastest two junior men that time trialled in Australia last year medalled at the world junior titles in Edmonton this year. No coincidence there. They both where in the top 2% of worlds best time accumulative time of swim and run. Both have been rewarded with success.

So if you’re keen to have a go against Josh and his fellow professional licence holders, I suggest you get a coach that knows the system, knows his numbers, and knows that the top 30 ITU men in the world average 31min flat for 10km off the bike. In 70.3 the top 20 men in the world will avg about a time of approx. 3hrs 50mins for the event week in week out.

Learn to win and win often in local events, state and national age group events. Coming top 5 in your age group won’t cut it. You'll finish no worries. But you won’t leave the race with any silver wear and a lot lighter wallet.

I love age group racing. The best are very good and for the better part will beat a lot of professional licence holders and they love nothing more than taking “those would be pro’s!” down.

So don’t rush the process, ask the question, sit down with your nearest State Performance or National Performance coach. We are all happy to give you the guidelines and the experience of our years “trying” to develop professional licence holders.

I love watching a competitive field in any race, guys racing 'hammer and tong' close together, burying themselves just to put food on the table. The process needs to be structured and given patience so you can really be competitive.

Don’t let me put you off the chance, but give it the respect it deserves and bury yourself every day in training!!!

Dan Atkins is the Head Coach at Triathlon Australia’s National Performance Centre on the Gold Coast, Australia. He has some 25 years experience as a triathlon coach and elite athlete. you can Contact Dan directly:

Twitter: @danat75