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Cycling’s Big Money Men

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

Professional road racing is a big-money sport, especially the three major races – the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España. Sponsors pay a lot of money to have their names splashed across the pavement, and the riders’ jerseys and caps, and cities and towns pay to have the stages start, pass or end within their limits – to name just a few of the money fountains that water the sport.

And in cycling, the old proverb “To the winner go the spoils” certainly holds true. If a rider wins one of the major Tours, he will become a millionaire today, which is what happened to Egan Bernal, the Colombian Team Ineos rider who won the Tour de France last year, at the age of 22.

Egan Bernal, Team Ineos. © Profimedia

According to an article published by the French weekly sports newspaper L’Équipe, that victory catapulted Bernal to an annual income of €2.7 million, making him the fourth highest-paid cyclist in the world. He also won the Tour de Suisse and Paris-Nice in 2019, which certainly made his wallet heavier but the Tour de France victory made it overflow. No wonder he’s always smiling for the cameras.

But a rider does not have to win a big race to make big money. Just ask Slovak Peter Sagan. The 30-year-old Bora-Hansgrohe rider is the world’s highest-paid rider today, earning €5 million a year, according to L’Équipe.

Peter Sagan, three-time world champion and member of the German racing team Bora-hansgrohe. © Profimedia

Although Sagan has not won the major trophy at Le Tour yet, the race classification, he has taken 12 Tour de France stages as well as the points classification record seven times and four stages at the Giro. He was also the world’s road race champion three times, won more than a dozen one-day races and is considered by many to be the world’s best cyclist. In any case, he’s the richest – as he was as well in 2018 when he made €6 million.

Second on the list of today’s highest-paid cyclists is, unsurprisingly, Chris Froome who has won the Tour de France four times, the Vuelta twice and the Giro once. However, the 35-year-old Team Ineos rider’s future looks cloudy, with Bernal and Geraint Thomas seemingly set to be the team’s one-two punch when road racing resumes.

Chris Froome is the second highest-paid cyclist of today. © Profimedia

Also worth mentioning is one more young rider who has become a millionaire largely based on his performance in the 2019 Tour de France, French Julian Alaphilippe. The 27-year-old Deceuninck–Quick-Step rider won the mountain classification in the 2018 Tour and the general classification in the 2016 Tour of California and the 2018 Tour of Britain but he became globally visible and nationally heroic in 2019 when he wore the Tour de France leader’s yellow jersey for 14 stages, won two stages outright and finished fifth overall. He is seventh on the list, with €2.3 million.

Here are the top 15 highest-paid cyclists in the world this year (according to L’Équipe):

1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), €5 million
2. Chris Froome (Team Ineos), €4.5 million
3. Geraint Thomas (Team Ineos) €3.5 million
4. Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) €2.7million
5. Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), €2.6 million
6. Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Ineos) , €2.5 million
7. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) €2.3 million
8. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), €2.2 million
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), €2.1 million
10. Richard Carapaz (Team Ineos), €2.1 million
11. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), €2 million
12. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), €2 million
13. Nairo Quintana (Arkèa-Samsic) €1.9 million
14. Elia Viviani (Cofidis), €1.9 million
15. Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), €1.8 million