Spanish ex-pro Óscar Pujol revealed details of “pay-to-race” schemes soffered to him during his pro racing career.
Pujol raced a few seasons in the WorldTour with Cérvelo and Omega Pharma, and then for nearly another decade in second and third-tier teams before retiring in 2018.
After the 2011 season, he could not find another WorldTour contract, but said without naming names that he was offered what’s called “pay-to-race” schemes.
That’s when a rider must put up part or all of their own contracts to secure a roster spot on an elite team.
“I had two offers. One team asked me to pay 12,000 euros, and another 40,000 euros,” Pujol said during an interview with “Bicio” on Dario Sport.
“I didn’t want to pay 12,000 euros. I found a team on Facebook from Iran that was looking for riders,” he said. “I preferred to spend it on a car, and with the difference, I booked a flight to Iran and I went to race for an Iranian team.”
After leaving the WorldTour, Pujol went on an international odyssey to join teams in non-traditional cycling countries. He raced for such outfits as Azad, RTS Racing Team, Polygon, Skydive and Ukyo, a Japanese team where he raced for four seasons.
The “pay-to-race” schemes are not common, but they do happen in lower level and even upper level teams, especially with riders desperate for a spot on a team to continue their racing careers.
“Some people take advantage of this in the sport because people are so passionate about it. You do it because you love it. I am not going to name names, but it’s always the same teams that ask you for money to race,” Pujol said. “In cycling, if you don’t have a ‘godfather’ you are never baptized.”
The 38-year-old Pujol won four pro races, all of them in Japan. He still competes in mountain bike and marathon events across Europe.
“A lot of friends encouraged me to keep racing and here I am one more time,” he said. “Now I have to do it on my own, but that’s the way it is.”