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by Iain Treloar
July 22, 2019
The Tour de France is one of sport’s most gruelling events; a polished production held in front of a transfixed global audience. But does the pay match the prestige?
This year, there’s a total of €2,291,700 of prize money on offer. In one sense, that’s a considerable sum, but it’s also a pittance compared to most major sports. When Wimbledon concluded last weekend, for instance, the winners of both the men’s and women’s singles pocketed a handy €2,600,000 each.
When the Tour rolls into Paris on Sunday, meanwhile, the winner will score a snazzy bowl-shaped trophy and €500,000 – a sum that, tradition dictates, will be shared amongst his teammates and staff.
Money is abstract, but items are tangible. As such, we’ve gone ahead and put each figure into universal terms that every CyclingTips reader can understand.
The prize money sharply drops off after the winner of the Tour. For riding 3,500km through France’s most testing terrain, a tenth-placed finisher in the world’s biggest bike race throws a meagre €3,800 — let’s say a Cipollini Bond frameset built with Shimano Tiagra, no wheels — into the team kitty. Finish below 20th overall, and your three weeks of exertions are valued at just €1,000, enough for a well-soiled 2003 Fiat Panda.
In addition to the major classifications, prize money is spread out in smaller spurts throughout the race, too. The sums range from €1,500 (three CeramicSpeed 3D Hollow Titanium Coated Pulley Wheels) for intermediate sprints all the way down to €200 for first place over a fourth category climb. That’s enough for a romantic dinner for one at Le W, a restaurant on the Champs-Elysées that gets 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor.
The Tour’s race rules list all the different ways that you can earn sometimes modest amounts of money at the Tour – sprints, climbs, combativity and time spent in the various leaders’ jerseys. There are also special prizes on offer for the first rider at the finish of the Tourmalet (the €5000 Souvenir Jacques Goddet) and the first rider across the Col d’Iseran (the €5000 Souvenir Henri Desgrange).
At race’s end, the prize money is tallied and handed off to the team. Depending on team policy, it’s then split between the riders, either at the end of the race or the season. 7% of any season winnings shoot off to the riders’ union, the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés. A slightly larger percentage goes to the team staff. The remainder is split among the riders.
In 2018, with €2,287,750 in total winnings on offer, the spectrum of team winnings ran from Sky’s €726,630 — 145 sets of Lightweight wheels — all the way down to EF Education First, who left Paris with just €14,420 – enough to fly the entire team to Krakow, Poland on EasyJet three times to celebrate.
For the more successful teams, the prize money from the Tour is a bonus on top of what is likely to be reasonably generous wages in the first place. In cycling’s current structure, funding for the riders comes from the teams for their salaries and their bonuses. As such, teams don’t rely on the prize cheque to survive, although it does represent a tangible mark the performance of a Tour de France can be measured against.
Chad Haga (Sunweb): “I’d take my wife to a really nice dinner in Paris and then save the rest for home improvements/investments. Boring answer from a saver/planner…”
Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo): “I’d buy an old Mini Cooper. Just like Mr Bean!”
Alex Howes (EF-Education First) “I think last time we got enough to get a taxi from the party to the hotel.”
George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) “I really don’t have many desires in the world that can be bought, but if I have to spend it at once, I guess it would have to involve a trip somewhere with all the important people in my life.”