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When is an amateur not an amateur?
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As WTC increases the number of IM races globally and the sport becomes more popular, as we all know it is becoming increasingly difficult to qualify for Kona.

I raced Ironman Canada this past weekend, and Cameron Wurf won the M30-34 category, outsplitting the entire pro field on the bike. As I understand it (and correct me if I am wrong), Cameron was a pro cyclist in the 2014 season but came out of contract when Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale teams merged. Racing in this age group, he is clearly still of competitive age for his original profession.

Rather than taking particular issue with this specific example though, the question I have is where does one draw the line between professional and amateur? For example, hypothetically if Crowie started racing Ironman as an amateur in the 40-44 category, a few folks gunning for slots might feel agrieved. If that is considered 'over the line', where is that line?

We are seeing professional athletes, particularly pro cyclists, turn their hand to triathlon, some in a pro capacity and some as amateurs. A non-exhaustive list of folks (present and recent past) just from my knowledge (so please forgive omissions or errors):

Magnus Backstedt - originally racing amateur, now pro
Lauren Jalabert - amateur
Antonio Colom Mas - amateur
Lance Armstrong - pro
Michi Weiss - pro
Emma Pooley - originally amateur, now pro
Cameron Wurf - amateur

Some of these folks have dope-tainted history as well, which complicates the discussion, but for the purposes of this topic let's assume all are clean (now at least). Should there be a line at which point WTC intervenes to say to athletes 'you are a professional athlete and need to race against professionals, not amateurs' or 'if you choose to race amateur, you're not eligible for a Kona slot'?

Interested to hear views.

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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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An amateur is not an amateur once he or she gets their pro card....that's it.

There are lots of retired pros who rejoin the amateur ranks; the other option would be that once a pro you can never compete again.

Here in NorCal the fields are littered with ex pros in the 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49 cats.

Everyone's situation is different, even in the amateur ranks some people have very little time to train (medical resident), while others have virtually unlimited time/resources (Dave Mirra).

I do remember Tinley (when he was an active pro) having to go in the elite wave of a mtn bike race because he was a "pro in a comparable sport."

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Last edited by: Titanflexr: Jul 28, 15 11:26
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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Maybe give it the NCAA treatment. Once you take money in one sport, you can no longer compete as an amateur.

But where do you draw the line? Dave Mirra was a freestyle BMX pro & now he's an IM triathlete. Should he have to race as a pro since BMX is not the same as road racing? Apollo Ohno was a pro speed skater & Hines Ward was a pro football player. Should they have to race as pros? What if Phelps or Meb decided to cross over? Those two seem a bit more clear cut.

I hear what you are saying & I don't disagree. I just think it will become one of those "spirit of the sport" decisions rather than a hard fast rule.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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All of the breakdowns for AG, pro vs AG, etc are just to make folks feel good. There is only one winner of a race.

Yep, as posted, we have lots of studs who race in Northern Calif. Should they have been Pro's? Or were? Or from other sports?
Who cares, they are the best, can and will always kick butt.

There is ALWAYS someone better in your AG! I just know so many top folks who cannot afford to race Tris anymore. Just too expensive.

Dave Campbell | Facebook | @DaveECampbell | h2ofun@h2ofun.net

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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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A 50 year old who places 3rd in his age group at Kona is comparatively better versus his peers than a 30 year old who does the same. Not directly what you are asking but that is my take.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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It is an interesting issue with guys like Cameron, just like it is for the guys leaving pro and still want to compete in triathlon. I raced against Cameron in Oceanside and I think he out-split Frodeno and Potts by like 5 minutes on his way to the overall amateur title. He absolutely crushed the bike. But from what I can see, Cameron has just jumped back into triathlon and I would say he has every right to go do Kona as many times as any AGer as he can. Think of all the guys that have done Kona year in and year out. Then here's a guy that from what I can see has not ever even done it yet, so why shouldn't he get to do it 3, 4, 5 etc. times like many other top AGers have been doing for years? I understand your thinking, but guys like Cameron haven't had the chance to do that yet and I don't think there should be any impediments to keep them from doing so, unless they don't qualify. So if WTC were to intervene and move up some top AGers automatically, then what is next? Cap the amount of times a guy can go to Kona? Cap the number of podium finishes? Putting limits on what an "amateur" can do is something that would create a lot more problems than just letting these guys competition figure out how to beat them (or at least come in second).

An extension of that idea is that here in Boulder, and other places for that matter, you have the same couple guys "earning their pro cards" at each eligible race, but they don't take them for any number of reasons. Yet you know they will likely be in the top 3 overall at the end of the day. At the same time, you also have guys leaving pro to come back and race AG and they just add to the competition. It's just one of those things. At any time a whole bunch of low or high level guys could drop out of the pro ranks and come back to AG and I don't think there is any good reason for them to not be allowed to do so. Certainly doing it out of interest for allowing other people to qualify for awards and championships is not a good enough reason.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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"Attention racers: next wave to the swim start will be men 30-30.5 years of age, between 5'11" and 6'1", have a BMI less than 30 but greater than 20, income between $40,000-55,000, have never held a pro card nor raced at a collegiate level in any individual discipline, train fewer than 10 hours per week, do not own an aero helmet, and have invested less than $2,000 in their bikes (receipts must be verified)... please make your way to the beach... that podium is calling your name!"

What kind of bizarre twisted facade of success is it to gain your position just because you delete the people who are better than you?

If you can't podium, or KQ, or whatever-it-is-you-want based on on your current abilities, training, and equipment choices with respect to the other people who choose to show up to race against you (whoever they might be) - then you can't. Period. HTFU.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [h2ofun] [ In reply to ]
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h2ofun wrote:
All of the breakdowns for AG, pro vs AG, etc are just to make folks feel good. There is only one winner of a race.

Yep, as posted, we have lots of studs who race in Northern Calif. Should they have been Pro's? Or were? Or from other sports?
Who cares, they are the best, can and will always kick butt.

There is ALWAYS someone better in your AG! I just know so many top folks who cannot afford to race Tris anymore. Just too expensive.

There are two winners, you sexist prick
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [ajthomas] [ In reply to ]
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ajthomas wrote:
h2ofun wrote:
All of the breakdowns for AG, pro vs AG, etc are just to make folks feel good. There is only one winner of a race.

Yep, as posted, we have lots of studs who race in Northern Calif. Should they have been Pro's? Or were? Or from other sports?
Who cares, they are the best, can and will always kick butt.

There is ALWAYS someone better in your AG! I just know so many top folks who cannot afford to race Tris anymore. Just too expensive.


There are two winners, you sexist prick

Not in our world today, everything is equal.

Dave Campbell | Facebook | @DaveECampbell | h2ofun@h2ofun.net

Boom Nutrition code 19F4Y3 $5 off 24 pack box | Bionic Runner | PowerCranks | Velotron | Spruzzamist

Lions don't lose sleep worrying about the sheep
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [rframe] [ In reply to ]
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take your meds and play nice rframe....



Randy Christofferson(http://www.rcmioga.blogspot.com

Insert Doubt. Erase Hope. Crush Dreams.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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Ironmanager wrote:
As WTC increases the number of IM races globally and the sport becomes more popular, as we all know it is becoming increasingly difficult to qualify for Kona.

I raced Ironman Canada this past weekend, and Cameron Wurf won the M30-34 category, outsplitting the entire pro field on the bike. As I understand it (and correct me if I am wrong), Cameron was a pro cyclist in the 2014 season but came out of contract when Garmin-Sharp and Cannondale teams merged. Racing in this age group, he is clearly still of competitive age for his original profession.

Rather than taking particular issue with this specific example though, the question I have is where does one draw the line between professional and amateur? For example, hypothetically if Crowie started racing Ironman as an amateur in the 40-44 category, a few folks gunning for slots might feel agrieved. If that is considered 'over the line', where is that line?

We are seeing professional athletes, particularly pro cyclists, turn their hand to triathlon, some in a pro capacity and some as amateurs. A non-exhaustive list of folks (present and recent past) just from my knowledge (so please forgive omissions or errors):

Magnus Backstedt - originally racing amateur, now pro
Lauren Jalabert - amateur
Antonio Colom Mas - amateur
Lance Armstrong - pro
Michi Weiss - pro
Emma Pooley - originally amateur, now pro
Cameron Wurf - amateur

Some of these folks have dope-tainted history as well, which complicates the discussion, but for the purposes of this topic let's assume all are clean (now at least). Should there be a line at which point WTC intervenes to say to athletes 'you are a professional athlete and need to race against professionals, not amateurs' or 'if you choose to race amateur, you're not eligible for a Kona slot'?

Interested to hear views.





It is what it is; if an athlete doesn't have a pro card, then why shouldn't they be able to race AG? In cycling, ex-pros (include pros who have ridden the TdF) regularly show up at Masters Nationals. Life circumstances do change; if the point of qualifying at Kona (in part) is to test yourself against the best, then why shouldn't ex-pros race?

I do understand where you're coming from, but it is similar to the notion that got us the proliferation of age groups and special categories in competition (shouldn't their be a BMI check for Clysdale racing?), where there are so many gradations that it's difficult not to earn some form of recognition. If these ex-pros are not contravening any requirement or regulation, so be it. Everyone gets older, priorities shift, but one shouldn't be penalized for a prior occupation. Short version, if you're in a group with ex-pros, you just gotta race faster. Again, to draw a parallel with cycling, it's not fair for me to compete against young racers who don't have to work and who can recover more quickly because of their youth. We don't mean this, right?

No comment whatsoever on demonstrated or prior drug use--if one isn't on suspension or ban, then they get to race. It can be argued that of most of the major sports, cycling has been (of recent years) the most public in its struggle with the issue of drugs. Not that cycling is doing a fine job, mind you, but you don't see the same engagement in triathlon. Hence, I don't have much else to say re: prior drug use.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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Until probably the early 2000 or maybe late 90s, pros qualified as AGers. So you'd go to Ironman Europe in Roth (now Challenge) and would race for a Kona slot against Hellriegel, Zack and Leder. Just for the record...
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Meathead] [ In reply to ]
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Meathead wrote:
Maybe give it the NCAA treatment. Once you take money in one sport, you can no longer compete as an amateur.

But where do you draw the line? Dave Mirra was a freestyle BMX pro & now he's an IM triathlete. Should he have to race as a pro since BMX is not the same as road racing? Apollo Ohno was a pro speed skater & Hines Ward was a pro football player. Should they have to race as pros? What if Phelps or Meb decided to cross over? Those two seem a bit more clear cut...

Could you clarify Meathead? (Oh man, there's a statement I've always wanted to use in real life.) It seems like these 2 paragraphs sort of contradict each other. Perhaps I'm not understanding what you mean.

In the NCAA, someone who is no longer defined as an amateur (by the NCAA's many definitions) in one sport can still compete in another sport. For example, someone who wins money in a golf tournament does not have eligibility to play NCAA Golf, but has eligibility to play NCAA Baseball - or any other NCAA sport except Golf. I have coached college athletes who have earned money in Cycling (not an NCAA sport) who have subsequently run XC and Ski Raced for our college team. I also coached one Nordic Skier who had received financial support (not sure if he had earned prize money) in ski jumping/Nordic combined who was declared eligible to compete in NCAA Skiing.

The cases where the NCAA has ruled an athlete ineligible in one sport when they were a pro in another sport have generally hinged on how that athlete was making money at their pro sport. Jeremy Bloom is the prime example, he was a freestyle skier with apparel endorsement contracts, and he wanted to play NCAA Football. The NCAA ruled him ineligible as they were unable to determine conclusively that his endorsement deals didn't hinge on his football skills. You also have to be careful when dealing with sports that are closely connected - for example you can't accept money for running in a Track meet without losing your eligibility for Cross Country, and you can't accept money for playing in a sand volleyball tournament without losing your eligibility to play NCAA (indoor) volleyball. But otherwise, accepting prize money or operating as a pro in one sport does not make an individual ineligible to compete in a different NCAA sport.

To the original question...IMO for triathletes are you a pro or an amateur should be a seasonal decision with perhaps a few year transition period when leaving the pro ranks. I play old man baseball (i.e. Senior League) and the rule up here is you have to be 35 and over to play, 45 and over to pitch, and you have to be out of pro ball for 3 seasons. We don't often get guys who played minor league ball, but if we did I think being out of the game on the pro level for 3 years isn't unreasonable. Our team has a former major leaguer, retired for 30 years but still one heck of a player. But most of the other teams still complain when he pitches for us. It is what it is. With triathlon you don't really have a unified rules situation like a baseball league has, so someone who is done racing pro will always be able to find a race to do. And "when is an amateur not am amateur" - I'd say as soon as you cash a prize money check for more than the entry fee you're no longer an amateur. Sponsorship is kind of a funny thing. I was going to say as soon as you get a sponsorship you're no longer an amateur, but I bowl on a team that is sponsored by a local business that pays our team's league fee and our individual sanctioning fees, and we're certainly nowhere near being pro bowlers.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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I think there individuals racing as amateurs - guy that finished 4th i think at IM France was 30-34, he's previously won his AG at the worlds - I'm not sure how "amateurish" anyone in any AG is that is at the pointy end of one of these fields

I'm not sure that it takes materially less effort, time or dedication to train yourself to finish 4th as an AG'er in a IM as opposed to win it (though I think he was just shy of 20 minutes off the winning time)
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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The line is with the pro card. Just like in any other sport, there are very talented amateurs out there that have not made it to the big leagues for one reason or another, but the rest of the people still have to compete with them.

If Crowie came back, I'm sure he would earn his pro card rather quickly again.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [h2ofun] [ In reply to ]
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h2ofun wrote:
ajthomas wrote:
h2ofun wrote:
All of the breakdowns for AG, pro vs AG, etc are just to make folks feel good. There is only one winner of a race.

Yep, as posted, we have lots of studs who race in Northern Calif. Should they have been Pro's? Or were? Or from other sports?
Who cares, they are the best, can and will always kick butt.

There is ALWAYS someone better in your AG! I just know so many top folks who cannot afford to race Tris anymore. Just too expensive.


There are two winners, you sexist prick


Not in our world today, everything is equal.

Nonsensical. Which is understandable coming from you.

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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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I lost 3rd place at 70.3 Worlds in 2011 to Jalabert. I wasn't mad because he was an ex-pro, I was mad because he was a doper.

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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Ironmanager] [ In reply to ]
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I think it really boils down to how the various governing organizations choose to incentivize it. For instance, if Ironman or USAT or whomever offered a $50,000 stipend to all athletes carrying a pro (or elite) card, you can bet anyone capable of qualifying for said classification would do so (which would, in turn, probably make qualifying more difficult). As it stands, the incentives are not that great and so some of the best athletes will remain or go back to competing as AGs. At the end of the day, the Athletes will (and should) do what is best for them. So if you feel it is an issue (I personally don't beyond the fact that I like the sport so I would love for athletes to get more back for what they put in), the real issue is not the Athletes, its the incentives that exist for them to turn pro. If you don't want to be competing against the best athletes as an AGer, then the governing bodies need to make it more appealing to turn pro.

Of course, as others have pointed out, this does not really change anything for you. Your finishing time is still your finishing time regardless of who finishes ahead of or behind you. Just because some arbitrary designation means you got 3rd instead of 4th because athlete X is no longer in your division doesn't change how well you did. And if that makes a difference to you, the only reason I could thing would be you are seeking the recognition and/or prizes that come with finish higher. And in that case, you are just as guilty as the guy who competes as an AGer when he could qualify as a pro. Why are you any more deserving of a high finish as an AGer than him?
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [Francois] [ In reply to ]
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General question for the masses - If cycling can handle a class system, 5 down to 1 then pro for road, 4 down to 1 then pro for 'cross and 3 to 1 then pro for MTB, why can't USAT figure something like this out?

Formerly MTBSully
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [MTBSully] [ In reply to ]
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To what end?
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [wahoopride] [ In reply to ]
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+1. Look at the 35-39 ag at Racine. Top 5 finished top 25 overall with a solid pro field. None of these guys are former pro's that I know of, just really fast amateurs that don't turn pro because there's no good reason to. Makes it tough to compete, but just emphasizes if you want to go to the world championships, you need to be one of the best in the world, amateur or pro
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [d2xccoach] [ In reply to ]
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d2xccoach wrote:
Meathead wrote:
Maybe give it the NCAA treatment. Once you take money in one sport, you can no longer compete as an amateur.

But where do you draw the line? Dave Mirra was a freestyle BMX pro & now he's an IM triathlete. Should he have to race as a pro since BMX is not the same as road racing? Apollo Ohno was a pro speed skater & Hines Ward was a pro football player. Should they have to race as pros? What if Phelps or Meb decided to cross over? Those two seem a bit more clear cut...


Could you clarify Meathead? (Oh man, there's a statement I've always wanted to use in real life.) It seems like these 2 paragraphs sort of contradict each other. Perhaps I'm not understanding what you mean.

In the NCAA, someone who is no longer defined as an amateur (by the NCAA's many definitions) in one sport can still compete in another sport. For example, someone who wins money in a golf tournament does not have eligibility to play NCAA Golf, but has eligibility to play NCAA Baseball - or any other NCAA sport except Golf. I have coached college athletes who have earned money in Cycling (not an NCAA sport) who have subsequently run XC and Ski Raced for our college team. I also coached one Nordic Skier who had received financial support (not sure if he had earned prize money) in ski jumping/Nordic combined who was declared eligible to compete in NCAA Skiing.

The cases where the NCAA has ruled an athlete ineligible in one sport when they were a pro in another sport have generally hinged on how that athlete was making money at their pro sport. Jeremy Bloom is the prime example, he was a freestyle skier with apparel endorsement contracts, and he wanted to play NCAA Football. The NCAA ruled him ineligible as they were unable to determine conclusively that his endorsement deals didn't hinge on his football skills. You also have to be careful when dealing with sports that are closely connected - for example you can't accept money for running in a Track meet without losing your eligibility for Cross Country, and you can't accept money for playing in a sand volleyball tournament without losing your eligibility to play NCAA (indoor) volleyball. But otherwise, accepting prize money or operating as a pro in one sport does not make an individual ineligible to compete in a different NCAA sport.

You pretty much nailed the clear as mud point I was trying to make about the NCAA. It's easy to know if you have signed an NFL/NBA/MLB contract, but where is the line drawn for olympic sports such as skiing? Your Nordic athlete & Jeremy Bloom examples are great ones. If someone competes in a cycle sport, swim sport, or running sport as a pro, should they be ruled a pro for triathlon, or should that be reserved only for those who were truly pro triathletes? And even if you define that, do you apply the NCAA rule of "Once you go pro, you can no longer compete as an amateur"? This solves the OP's question about former pros falling back down to the AG ranks & destroying us mere mortals.

My point is that it gets really murky if you try to find a hard fast way to take away someone's amateur status. The NCAA does a terrible job managing amateur collegiate athletics, but that's because it's a fluid world & as soon as you write the rules, something else changes that makes them obsolete.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [wahoopride] [ In reply to ]
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To the end that you can remain competitive in your class, starting from Cat 5 "begining racer" to Cat 1 "seasoned and trained racer." Eventually you hit your genetic potential and you are stuck in that Cat. As you age and can't keep up that or have a life event and lose a year of training, you can petition to be downgraded. If you come straight out of college or some other pro athletics, straight to cat 3, not straight to owning souls in your AG.

Formerly MTBSully
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [MTBSully] [ In reply to ]
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I understand how the classification system works, I just don't understand the point of it as it related to triathlon beyond having a simple way to quantify how good someone is.
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Re: When is an amateur not an amateur? [wahoopride] [ In reply to ]
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It would sure clean up start waves or seeding a mass start.

Formerly MTBSully
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