Mail: Should I step up to pro?

Hey Lee,

I really need your advice about whether or not to upgrade to pro: I don´t know if it´s better to race semi-pro at the three nationals I´ll be at this summer, or if I should just try to upgrade to pro. I am planning on racing the Maxxis cups, getting a UCI point, and then racing at the very least the Spain world cup, hopefully Ft. William and Willingen as well. The USA cycling licensing official told me that when a semi-pro buys an international license it says Elite on it for the class. This would mean game on for the Maxxis/WC stuff, so it seems to be that a semi-pro can race a WC.

Half of me says you´re only young once, might as well try to get as far as possible in a sport you´ve loved your whole life. Plus, I have had some bad luck finding sponsors (CalPoly wheelmen and Gamut so far…) and am thinking that maybe with a pro license it will be easier to get some better deals. What would you do? Get more experience in semi then move up? Grab the bull by the horns and start racing gnarly agro? Hmmm… (DH results in semi= 5th at Sea Otter, 3rd at Deer Valley, 12th at Snowmass) You know a lot more about the sport than I do, and especially about racing. So, is there an easy answer?

Thanks a lot man,


Hey Jeff.

The answer depends on what you want out of your racing. You seem to race because you love it — you’re super talented and fast as hell, but it doesn’t seem like you’re out there to kick asses out of some insatiable thirst for validation. Which is good.


– You’ll be young for a while still.
– Sponsorship deals aren’t all that great for pros, especially mid-packers. Going pro will essentially lower your profile.
– You’re entitled to winning in semi before you step up.
– If you can still achieve your WC goals as a semi, that’s very cool.
– For a character like you, the real sponsorship opportunities aren’t just in victories; they’re in being an ambassador and stoke-maker.
– It seems like you’re in this sport for the long haul. There’s no hurry to step up.

If you want my opinion: Don’t let yourself feel any pressure to step up. In the long run it’ll probably be better to race this year as a semi. Have fun, ride your best and gain more experience. If it feels right, you can step up next year.

— Lee

PS: I’ll never forget you pinning it in expert at the last Big Bear dual slalom. Attacking with no brakes (they didn’t work) through those flat turns — just amazing.

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