One of my pet peeves in the popular cycling media is the misappropriation of the word "PRO" (in all caps, no less), especially when one uses that term to describe one's self for having accomplished the singular task of donning expensive Italian-made clothing for the Sunday morning group ride. Perhaps my annoyance derives from the implication, intentional or not, that the career cat. 3s using this term are just one degree removed from actual professionals just because they've managed to minimize the unsightly bulges in their snappy red, black, and white kit.
While I will be the first to admit that a nice looking kit and a fast looking bike provide motivation to get out and ride, let's not fool ourselves into thinking that top shelf stuff puts us anywhere near the status of a true professional. In the first USGP event of 2011, Ryan Trebon averaged 472 watts over 60 minutes en route to victory. No kit in the world will even put you in the same area code as that kind of an effort.
"Pro" should be used to describe actual professionals, whether that's the journeyman domestic pro who doesn't know if his team will even exist next year, the rookie that blazed through the amateur ranks en route to his first contract (congratulations, Nate!), or the reigning world champion.
But "PRO" should be reserved for the type of athlete who, while holding both yellow jersey and rainbow stripes of world champion, provides the leadout for a teammate. Or who, while marked by every team in the race, manages to solo to victory anyway in two consecutive monuments. PRO athletes are the guys and gals that transcend their discipline, the people who are admired by pros within their sport and others, the athletes like Kelly Slater.