The world of cycling sees a wide gulf between how much pro cyclists earn and the many many cyclists scraping by at the bottom of the Continental level. Compared to other sports though – like football – cyclists actually still earn relatively ‘normal’ incomes through their sport.
In this article, I’m going to attempt to show some of the known figures for riders across different levels of men’s cycling and the difference in money between men’s and women’s cycling.
2020 will see some changes in pro cycling. The men’s WorldTour stays the same but the Pro Continental level will be renamed the Pro Series. The women’s WorldTour will mean something slightly different and there will be a women’s Pro Series too. As it’s still 2019, just, I’m going to stick with naming levels as they were in 2019 for ease.
Which pro cyclists earn the most?
Now this isn’t a definitive list. Just like in the real world, not everyone likes to tell people what they earn. As such it’s a list of only the numbers I could actually find and even those may require being taken with a pinch of salt. There’s some big names missing from this list like Julian Alaphilippe who signed a new contract in June 2019.
|Peter Sagan||Bora-Hansgrohe||2018||€6 million|
|Chris Froome||Team Sky||2018||€5.3 million|
|Chris Froome||Team Ineos||2019||€5.2 million|
|Chris Froome||Team Sky||2015||€4.7 million|
|Vincenzo Nibali||Bahrain-Merida||2019||€4 million|
|Alberto Contador||Tinkoff||2015||€4 million|
|Alejandro Valverde||Movistar||2019||€3.5 million|
|Mark Cavendish||Etixx-Quickstep||2015||€3.5 million|
|Mark Cavendish||Dimension Data||2018||€3.4 million|
|Tom Dumoulin||Team Sunweb||2019||€3 million|
|Geraint Thomas||Team Ineos||2019||€3 million|
|Marcel Kittel||Katusha||2018||€3 million|
|Vincenzo Nibali||Bahrain-Merida||2018||€2.9 million|
|Egan Bernal||Team Ineos||2019||€2.8 million|
|Fernando Gaviria||UAE Emirates||2019||€2.7 million|
|Greg Van Avermaet||CCC||2019||€2.5 million|
|Nairo Quintana||Movistar||2019||€2.5 million|
|Nairo Quintana||Movistar||2018||€2 million|
|Philippe Gilbert||BMC||2012||€2 million|
|Elia Viviani||Cofidis||2020||€2 million|
What this table also doesn’t include is the extra money that pro cyclists earn through prize money. I covered all of the teams and riders prize money from the 2019 Tour de France, which showed just how big the payoffs are for winning. It also showed the little money some riders get to supplement their wages after 3 weeks of hard racing.
The prize money for races varies massively. The total prize pot for the men’s Amstel Gold in 2019 was €40k and just €10k for the women’s race. Some races are bucking this trend and offering equal prize money, such as the Tour de Yorkshire. It’s important to note that all of the salaries listed here do not include prize money winnings or endorsements. Appearance money is rarely openly discussed but Chris Froome allegedly received €2 million just to enter the 2018 Giro d’Italia for instance.
At the end of 2017, it was reported that half of the women’s peloton was earning under €10,000 a year. 17% were earning nothing at all and a touch over half also had second jobs to supplement their racing career. At the same point in time, just 11% of women’s riders were earning more than €34,000. An amount that’s comparable to the minimum wage in men’s cycling.
What do regular pro cyclists earn?
So we’ve seen what the star riders earn, what about the rest?
Well, a WorldTour domestique can earn between €100,000 and €400,000. You’re looking at the likes of Tim Declercq and Julian Vermote in this category. The guys who don’t necessarily get the glory themselves but put in a tonne of work to benefit the team. Georg Preidler was reportedly on €170,000 for FDJ during 2017-2018.
A super domestique type rider can earn anywhere between the high-end of that range and the bottom of the table above. Geraint Thomas was reported to be earning €1-1.5 million in 2018, then he won the Tour de France and now finds himself earning €3 million.
Pro cyclist minimum wages
At certain levels in the sport of cycling a minimum wage structure appears but below that level riders will potentially be on much less money to race. In 2019, the minimum wage for men’s Pro-Continental level cyclists was €30,855. For the WorldTour that number is €40,045.
There’s been some reasonable progression in these minimum wages since 2013. Back then a Pro-Continental cyclist would get at least €30,250 and a WorldTour rider at least €36,000.
For 2018, the current Pro-Continental minimum wage of €30,855 was introduced and WorldTour riders were now able to get at least €38,115.
Neo-pros at both levels get slightly less. these were set at €25,300 for Pro-Continental neo-pros and €29,370 for WorldTour level neo-pros in 2013. These increased in 2018 to €25,806 at Pro-Conti level and €30,893 for WorldTour level riders. The current numbers are €26,322 and €31,609.
There’s no minimum salary for those racing at Continental level, so some will be receiving an income but plenty won’t be. I wouldn’t expect their salaries to be higher than the neo-pro rates except maybe for high profile riders at that level like a Davide Rebellin or Adam Blythe – even then probably not. It’s often thought that 2.2/1.2 races aren’t to be considered as professional races, so you’ll often hear of a rider taking their first pro win at a higher level.
For women, the situation is closer to that of the Continental riders than any other level. Up until now, there has been no minimum wage at all for women cyclists. 2020 will be the first season with a minimum wage, but only for women on the 8 WorldTour teams. For 2020, it will start at €15,000, with plans to then increase it gradually over the next three years.
If things go to plan, the minimum wage will rise to €20,000 in 2021, to €27,500 in 2022 and become equal to Pro Continental men’s teams by 2023. The number of women’s WorldTour teams should also have grown by then too. There is no official neo-pro status for women but this is also aiming to be introduced in 2023. Full details from the UCI here.