Cycling's biggest male stars are still earning millions, but those at the top of the salary stakes aren't necessarily those with the highest UCI ranking, a report suggests.
A report published this weekend by Italian sports finance outlet Calcio e Finanza suggests Tadej Pogačar is earning €6 million a year, making him the sport's highest paid cyclist, if the data is accurate.
The study shows the top 20 salaries for male pro cyclists in 2022. While the numbers are mostly best-guess calculations and some of the data is based on 2021 numbers, it still gives an interesting insight into the state of finances in the peloton.
There are a few insights to be gleaned from the list, not least that reputation seems to count for a lot: the names in the top-five are certainly not the "winningest" riders at the moment.
Here's the list:
- Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates): €6.0 million
- Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up Nation): €5.5 million
- Peter Sagan (TotalEnergies): €5.5 million
- Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers): €3.5 million
- Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers): €2.8 million
- Michal Kwiatkowski (Ineos Grenadiers): €2.5 million
- Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl): €2.3 million
- Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): €2.2 million
- Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers): €2.2 million
- Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): €2.2 million
- Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Qazaqstan): €2.1 million
- Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma): €2.0 million
- Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix): €2.0 million
- Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers): €2.0 million
- Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ): €2.0 million
- Romain Bardet (Team DSM): €2.0 million
- Jakob Fuglsang (Israel-Premier Tech): €2.0 million
- Elia Viviani (Ineos Grenadiers): €1.9 million
- Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic): €1.9 million
- Fernando Gaviria (UAE Emirates): €1.8 million
What can we learn?
Being the best pays
There is little doubt that Tadej Pogačar is the best male cyclist in the world at the moment. The two-time Tour de France winner has been in irrepressible form this season, winning the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Strade Bianche.
Therefore, it makes sense that he tops the list, earning a cool €6 million a year on a contract that runs until 2027. Given that he is only 23 as well, continuing to back the Slovenian makes sense for UAE Team Emirates.
That's €36 million over six years, however, so his bosses will hope that he keeps delivering; there is nothing to suggest that he won't at the moment though.
It's worth riding for Ineos Grenadiers
With four in the top-10, and six in the top-20, Ineos Grenadiers dominate the highest-paid list. Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, Michał Kwiatkowski, and Richard Carapaz all sit in the top nine, costing Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe some €11.0 million in total.
Bernal, injury excepting, is one of the sport's biggest stars and at just 25 should still have time to deliver - first he'll need to recover from his crash earlier this year, but his progress has been phenomenal. The Colombian signed a new contract with the British squad keeping him there until 2026 last year.
Meanwhile, Kwiatkowski is paid a lot for his services and has appeared at times to give up personal goals to work as a super-domestique for Sky/Ineos. His last win came in 2020, and he has won 15 times over his seven years with the outfit, compared to 13 times over six years in his younger times in cycling.
Thomas and Carapaz are both grand tour winners, but neither has taken an overall top step for a couple of years, and it would be interesting to know how much they'd earn at another team.
The future certainly looks bright for Tom Pidcock, if he re-signs with Ineos as one of the stars of the sport.
Reputation and past success counts for a lot
Three of the top five are over 30: Chris Froome, Peter Sagan and Geraint Thomas. Of this trio, Sagan seems the most likely to continue to win, although the Slovakian might slightly be trading off previous success.
Riders behind them like Primož Roglič, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel seem surer bets for future wins, and yet the trio all earn millions less than some of the riders who were stars in the last decade.
Froome has been with Israel-Premier Tech since last year, and has to-date seemed a long way off recapturing his past form. Granted, it is hard to live up to his grand tour-winning years, but his salary implies high expectations.
Similarly, Thomas re-signed with Ineos Grenadiers until the end of 2023, and is a Tour de France winner, but it is unclear whether he will form part of the lineup for this year's edition, and he's not currently at the top of the sport.
However, whilst Sagan, Thomas and Froome don't carry the most recent wins on their collective resume, it can't be overlooked that they bring with them almost unbeatable levels of gravitas and media attention. Sagan's move to TotalEnergies saw the French team bring in Specialized as bike sponsors, such is his value to the manufacturer.
Some surprising names earn a lot of money
There are names in that list that surprised us. Jakob Fuglsang is reportedly on €2 million, but compared to the juggernauts around him, is not a huge name or a rider with a vast number of recent wins under his belt.
Fernando Gaviria is on €1.8 million, but his last Giro d'Italia stage win was in 2019 and his last Tour de France stage win in 2018 - it's fair to say that he would not rank up among the top fast men in the world at the moment. His contract with UAE Team Emirates is scheduled to run out this year, however.
Cyclists do not earn a lot, relative to other sports
Figures such as $6 million sound huge. However, it's not big bucks compared to other sports.
Both Neymar and Lionel Messi are reportedly paid $75 million by Paris Saint-Germain, which is more than 11 times what Tadej Pogačar earns.
Lewis Hamilton is reportedly on $40 million from his Formula One team Mercedes AMG, while Irish mixed marshal arts fighter Connor McGregor earned $180 million in 2021.
The amounts earned by cyclists might seem huge, but they are relatively small compared to the stars who turned to other pursuits.
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Hello, I'm Cycling Weekly's digital staff writer. I like pretending to be part of the great history of cycling writing, and acting like a pseudo-intellectual in general.
Before joining the team here I wrote for Procycling for almost two years, interviewing riders and writing about racing. My favourite event is Strade Bianche, but I haven't quite made it to the Piazza del Campo just yet.
Prior to covering the sport of cycling, I wrote about ecclesiastical matters for the Church Times and politics for Business Insider. I have degrees in history and journalism.
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