Start racing venues the pros race as a privateer and make yourself visible by being on the podium frequently, that will attract sponsors and maybe if you win enough a factory ride; easier said than done thou.
3-2: Five top-five finishes is a mandatory upgrade.
2-1: Five top-five finishes is a mandatory upgrade. Riders may choose to upgrade with two top-five finishes
1-Pro: Riders are eligible to be upgraded to Pro after two top-three or three top-five finishes in Elite/Open category 1 races at USA Cycling National MTB Calendar Events
Simply put, you can get a pro license if you always finish top three.
That said, many people with a pro license do not make a living as cyclist. They just won a few races and their sponsor ship ends at the club level. The majority of guys with pro licenses are unpaid.
To make a living as a cyclist you have to be really, really good -- better than everyone at the local races by several minutes in XC races. You must be utterly dominant to even clear $30,000/year as a professional cyclist.
My advice to anyone who wants to be a pro cyclist is to get a part-time job at a bike shop because that's where they will likely work for the rest of their lives.
Is it hard to transition to downhill? That depends on your bike handling.
I'm assuming you've done some downhilling already, or at least live within striking distance of a mountain that runs the lifts in the summer? Get a season pass and start spending all your time there. Win or do well in some races in the beginner class, then spend a few seasons working your way up to winning expert class races. By the time you need to worry about going pro, which for most people will be never, you'll know everything you need to know.
To be clear you're saying you want to be a downhill pro? If so, your profile says you're in Baltimore. If you're serious about this the very first thing is you'll need to move to a major DH area with a large bike park (Whistler, Mammoth, CO, etc). Then, start working towards your 10,000 hours.
minijordan was in fact from singapore as a wonderful member of a local spamming network. However after deleting his spam links I am going to leave theis and you all can add to it as it is probably a question that comes up and it will be nice to have it available as a starting resource for anyone that is serious. At the least it will get someone started asking the right questions.
Thanks, rockcrusher. There is some good information above that I found highly informative. I'm not looking to turn Pro (way to old for that - don't bounce off of boulders like I used to), but do like to see what someone that might would have to do.
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