How Pro Cyclists Career Earnings Compare to Other Sports

When casual observers think about professional cycling the first tournament that comes to mind will be the Tour de France. This remains the biggest prize in the sport and the one that they all want to win.

Frequently abbreviated to the TDF or simply ‘the Tour’, the race was established back in 1903 and this is, essentially, where organized pro cycling began. However, the event is just one of three Grand Tours.

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Cycling’s three Grand Tours are made up of the Tour De France, the Vuelta a Espana and the Giro D’Italia. The TDF is the biggest test of them all with 21 days of intense competition, culminating with the winner taking what is effectively an unchallenged lap of honor along the Champs D’Elysee.

All three events offer their own challenges and whoever comes through is a worthy winner. Throughout the cycling year, there are additional tournaments to be won and it’s a packed schedule.

A Punishing Calendar
Casual cycling fans only tend to tune in for the Tour De France. It’s the glamor race, set against stunning scenery and it’s a time when viewing figures are highest for the TV broadcasters.

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The success of the Tour also leads to benefits in other industries. Betting on cycling peaks when the TDF is in town with popular sportsbooks like DraftKings, listing a wide range of markets.

Cyclists will look to peak in terms of form and fitness for the Tour de France but it’s a delicate balance. With two other Grand Tour events and a host of other races, fitness and conditioning is key.

Every athlete who competes needs to be on top of their game but just how are cyclists rewarded in comparison to other sportsmen and women?

The Numbers
Not every cyclist’s salary is widely publicized but there are known figures for many of the top competitors. Chris Froome appears regularly on these types of lists and it’s shown that in 2021, the former Tour de France Champion earned around 5.5 million Euros.

Froome isn’t quite at the top of the tree: Back in 2018, Peter Sagan claimed some 6 million Euros while riding for Bora Hansgrohe. At the time of writing in 2021, Sagan’s salary is believed to be the highest for any professional cyclist.

Froome’s figures through the years make for interesting reading: Those numbers from 2021 represent his salary from the Israel Start-Up Nation and they show a small increase from previous sums.

In 2015, while riding for Team Sky, Froome’s Salary is listed at 4.7 million Euros. By 2018, the same team are reported to have been paying him 5.3 million Euros. A change of employer saw the Englishman take a drop in earnings by the end of the decade. In 2019, Team Ineos were paying Froome slightly less at 5.2 million Euros.

Peter Sagan and Chris Froome are among the highest paid athletes but others are set to catch up as their careers overtake the two men. Geraint Thomas’ three million Euros from Team Ineos in 2019 seems low in comparison but this seems to be closer to the average for the best riders.

Naturally, the numbers need to be taken in context. For the average man on the street, these are life changing sums but they do not necessarily compare that well when put up against other sports.

The Big Leagues
When sporting salaries are compared, it’s often the case that footballers come way out on top. Consider the case of Lionel Messi who has just transferred to Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona. His salary is believed to be in the region of 71 million Euros each year.

In short, it may take Messi around six weeks to earn the same amount of money as the top professional cyclists. While this may be an extreme example, it’s one that perfectly underlines the margins between the two sports.

Top professional cricketers can now earn multi-million deals thanks to the rise of franchise competitions around the world. The Indian Premier League is the top-paying example but there are many others that provide a path to a serious annual salary.

Other sports such as rugby, golf and tennis can provide salaries and prize money that will dwarf anything that a professional cyclist can earn. It’s maybe not a scenario that encourages riders to take up the sport but why is this the case?

Why the Disparity?
Even the most enthusiastic cycling fan would acknowledge that the sport just cannot compare to football in terms of popularity. Viewing figures leave a distant gap between the two and the revenues generated offer the key to this disparity.

TV broadcasters earn more money during football games because advertisers will pay a higher premium. They know that significantly more eyes will be on the television screens during ad breaks when live football is being broadcast.

Similarly, pitchside advertising and shirt sponsorships also carry a higher price for football. Once again, this is an extreme example but costs will be directly proportional to those viewing figures. With cycling further down the list, rider’s salaries are subdued in comparison to many other sportsmen and women.

The Future
Until higher viewing figures accompany professional cycling, this situation is unlikely to change in the near future.

In comparison to regular white collar salaries, these are impressive sums but they continue to be dwarfed by more popular sports.

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