The salaries of professional athletes are always an interesting topic. Cycling is no different. The only difference is that, compared to other sports, cycling wages are not publicly disclosed, which makes it all the more mysterious.
The highest-paid cyclist is Tadej Pogačar, who earns €6 million ($6.6 million) per season. Only three other cyclists earn more than €5 million ($5.5 million) per year, while other cycling stars earn around €2 million ($2.2 million). The minimum wage for a World Tour cyclist is €60,000 ($65,000).
Cycling is not a rich sport. While some make millions, most do not. Above all, there is a huge wage gap between male and female cyclists.
How much are male professional cyclists paid?
If you want to become a professional cyclist to get rich, you should try another sport instead. Yes, some cyclists are millionaires, but at the level they are, they would be billionaires in many other sports.
While theoretically, the sky is the limit on how much professional cyclists can make, they don’t really earn that much compared to other sports.
But more on that a bit later. First, let’s look at the other side of the scale, where there is a limit to how much cyclists have to earn.
The UCI, the world’s governing body for cycling, requires teams to pay at least the minimum wage to the riders they sign.
Teams that belong to the top level, so-called World Tour teams, must pay the cyclist at least €60,000 ($65,000). If they sign a neo-pro contract (first-year professional), the minimum wage is €26,849 ($31,768), but this increases in the second year of the contract.
The situation in the lower-tier teams is even more miserable. The minimum wage for regular members (not neo-pro) of Continental teams (the lowest tier) is only €44,000 ($48,000).
The salary gap between the best cyclists and the rest is enormous.
Luckily, most cyclists earn more than minimum wage.
The biggest stars of sport, who lead the teams and have the best results, earn a few million a year. But their success would not be possible without their loyal domestiques, whose payroll is much more modest.
The best domestiques, who have been around for years, such as Michal Kwiatkowski, may have a million-dollar salary, but the vast majority earn less.
On average, basic domestiques earn between €150,000 and €500,000 ($160,000-$550,000). If they perform well, they can receive a higher salary reaching towards a million. But in reality, only a few domestiques earn that much.
Who are the 15 highest-paid cyclists and how much do they make?
If I asked which cyclists you think are the best paid, you could probably name at least a few. But looking at the table, you would be very surprised by some of the names near the top.
The list of the highest-paid cyclists is a mix of young, exciting prospects who have already proven they are the real deal and some older riders who signed their last big contract a few years ago on the back of their former glory.
It is also important to know that cyclists are not paid simply based on their results. Their salary is also boosted by their popularity among fans, their value to sponsors and the competence of their agent.
So, without further ado, here is the list of the 15 highest-paid cyclists in the 2023 season.
|1. Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates)||€6.0/$6.3 million|
|2. Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech)||€5.5/$5.8 million|
|3. Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies)||€5.5/$5.8 million|
|4. Primož Roglič (Bora-hansgrohe)||€5.0/$5.3 million|
|5. Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers)||€3.5/$3.8 million|
|6. Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)||€2.8/$3.0 million|
|7. Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step)||€2.5/$2.7 million|
|8. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick Step)||€2.5/$2.7 million|
|9. Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost)||€2.2/$2.4 million|
|10. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma)||€2.2/$2.4 million|
|11. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck)||€2.0/$2.2 million|
|12. Adam Yates (UAE Emirates)||€2.0/$2.2 million|
|13. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)||€2.0/$2.2 million|
|14. Romain Bardet (dsm-firmenich)||€2.0/$2.2 million|
|15. Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech)||€2.0/$2.2 million|
The most notable absence is Jonas Vingegaard, who has won the Tour de France twice in the last two years. According to rumors, his salary in 2023 is €500,000, but it will increase significantly next season. He has already signed a new contract with Jumbo-Visma until 2027.
How much are female professional cyclists paid?
Women’s cycling is evolving and gaining popularity, but women are still a long way behind men when it comes to salaries. On the positive side, the gap is slowly narrowing, at least regarding the minimum wage.
There are 15 Women World Tour teams in 2023 that employ most women professional cyclists. Then there are the many continental teams that are not considered professional as the cyclists can’t make a living riding for them and need to find another source of income as well.
The minimum salary for female cyclists riding in World Tour teams is €32,102 ($35,066), but UCI has already announced that this will increase to €35,000 ($38,000) in 2024 and to €38,000 ($41,500) in 2025.
30% of female cyclists must have a job in addition to their cycling career.
Much more worrying are the results of a survey carried out among women cyclists. It showed that 40% of cyclists earn nothing, and another 20% earn less than €5,000 ($5,500).
Fortunately, more and more riders earn between €10,000 and €20,000 ($11,000 and $22,000) each year, with 20% of riders falling into this category in 2023. Another 20% of cyclists reported earning a minimal wage or more, so €32,102 ($35,000).
Out of those cyclists who earn at least a minimal wage, most are members of World Tour teams. The salaries are much better there, but still not great. 24% of World Tour members earn between €60,000 and €100,000 ($65,500-$110,000) and 13% earn more than €100,000 ($110,000).
Unfortunately, the exact salaries of women cyclists are a well-kept secret. And although male cyclists also try to keep their salaries secret, the public interest is too great for them to succeed. Public interest is lower for women cyclists, so no one takes the trouble to investigate the salary levels of individual female cyclists.