Or did he?
The Tour’s first-place purse is the largest in cycling but remains relatively paltry compared to the tournament payouts that elite golfers see for a week’s work, let alone a month.
The total purse for the entire Tour, including stages, jerseys, and special primes, totals €2,269,450. Again, tops in cycling, but that’s equal to a middling golf or tennis tournament.
Prize money is much like other financial aspects of cycling — things are not always what they seem.
Where does the prize money come from? How is it allocated? And who gets what?
Let’s take a deep dive into some of the numbers:
Riders make money on contracts and bonuses
Of course, €500,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Even if it’s a low number when compared to golf or tennis, it’s still a good chunk of change.
It’s a long-running tradition that the Tour winner divides the prize with teammates. Staffers also see a chunk (see below). After all, cycling is a team sport with an individual winner. The victory goes to one, but the spoils are shared by all.
A Tour winner will sometimes buy their teammates a special gift, like a luxury watch, or invite everyone on a special trip with family.
So the other UAE-Team Emirates riders arriving in Paris should be seeing a nice Tour “bonus” at least in the middle five-digits on top of their salaries, not bad for three weeks of hard work.
Compared to the $150,000 payout to each team member on the winning team of the Super Bowl, it’s peanuts, but cycling doesn’t have a huge stadium or massive TV rights.
It’s no mystery that today’s top racing pros make the majority of their income from salaries.
Pogačar is on a five-year deal, one of the longest in cycling history, and though his wage is not public knowledge, he is already among the best paid in the peloton, with a salary likely close to or above €3 million per year.
Performance bonuses are also part of many contracts, especially for a rider like Mark Cavendish, who likely was on a low salary, but with bonuses written in. Tour winners and other top stars also will receive bonuses from sponsors and team ownership.
As rider salaries have steadily increased in the past 20 years or so, sharing out the winner’s prize money isn’t nearly as important as it was in the 1980s or before, when a rider might only be earning $20,000 or $30,000 a year.
Also read: Peter Sagan is peloton’s best-paid cyclist
Most established WorldTour pros today are earning well into low to middle six figures, with neo-pros already racing on a minimum wage of $40,000 per season. Top-end domestiques and co-leader riders can earn up to high-end six figures, and even into the low millions.
Top Tour riders also make money on post-race criteriums, but that tradition is slowly dying out, and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped. But a top name can still earn five figures, perhaps even low six-figures, in a few high-end criteriums that still exist.
Of course, it pays to be on a team that’s successful. The bottom six teams in the Tour made less than €25,000. That payout will be paltry per rider, and even less for staffers.
So are top Tour-level riders making millions like an NBA or MLB star? Not even close. Yet today’s pros are better paid than ever before in the sport’s history.
Is the prize money a nice bonus? Most definitely, but they’re not paying the rent with it, and it’s not why they’re racing.
Who gets the prize money, and how much?
The Tour’s prize money list fills two pages in the official roadbook.
Not only are there payouts for GC, but there are also cash prizes and primes littered across the Tour route for stage winners, jersey-holders, the most aggressive rider, and those who top out first on iconic climbs.
Prize money runs deep into each day’s results sheet, and is tallied up at the end of each Tour and divvied out by the team.
This year, UAE-Team Emirates topped the team’s list, earning €619,580. Last was Qhubeka-NextHash, with €11,650, while sixteen teams earned less than €100,000 in prize money during the 2021 Tour.
A stage victor earns €11,000, rolling down to €300 for 20th, with €28,650 in prize money per stage. Times that by 21 and it’s more than €600,000 for stages alone.
For the GC, there’s €200,000 for second and €100,000 for third, with €1,000 for anyone who makes it to Paris from 20th place on down. The total GC purse is €1,158,800.
There are prize money awards at intermediate sprints (€1,500 for first) and €25,000 for the winner of the green jersey. The same goes for the King of the Mountains jersey, with the best young rider winning €20,000.
The top team wins €58,000, each day’s most aggressive rider wins €2,000, with the “super-combative” rider winning €20,000 in Paris.
There are two primes exceptionnelles for the first over the highest point in the Alps and Pyrénées, each winning €5,000 each.
Big bonuses for (some) team staffers
Where the prize money really sees an impact is among staffers.
Soigneurs, bus drivers, mechanics, and other auxiliary team employees will usually see a share of the pot.
Though the system varies from team to team, the traditional way of splitting up prize money is to award team staffers a “share” of the winnings, and then split that up by how many days a staffer worked.
Also read: Meet Peter Sagan’s personal soigneur
So at the Tour, if the squad is eight riders, a team might add one or two more “riders” during a race, and then divide out the prize money among up its many staffers. A bonus for a top team can be several thousand euros, up to low five-figure numbers.
Many of the back-room staffers are on relatively low salaries, but benefits include weeks and months of paid expenses when they’re on the road. Prize money is typically added up during the season and paid out quarterly or at the end of the year.
Sport directors, managers, coaches, and trainers will also see performance-based bonuses, which are often written into contracts, or paid out as part of the winner’s pie, depending on the team.
How much do these staffers make?
A lot depends on the team. With teams now boasting backroom staffers that can top 60 people, many are full-time employees, with health insurance and other benefits in addition to a full-time salary that can range from middle to upper five figures, higher for a big-name trainer or coach.
Other teams hire out helpers on a contractual basis, usually on a per-need basis, so a mechanic or sport director might have a contract for 90 race days a year.
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) July 18, 2021
For any team staff, bonuses and extra payments are indeed welcome.
Of course, if a team has bad luck or under-performs, the end-of-Tour bonuses might be just a few hundred dollars. Yet the work hours are the same.
It is what it is
The takeaway? Riders don’t race for prize money nearly as much in modern cycling, but it’s a nice bonus for teams with a lot of success at the Tour de France.
In what’s a long-running tradition in a sport with an individual winner in a team sport, most teams divide the prize money among riders, sport directors, and staffers.
Again, the total purse for the Tour is €2,269,450. That’s the biggest in cycling, but relatively small when compared to larger, more mainstream sports.
As is often the case in the peloton and in life in general, a few get rich, and the rest work hard for their money.