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Ever wondered how much you’d earn if you won the Tour de France twice before you turned 23?
Six million euros ($6.6 million) a year, that’s how much.
At least, that’s what a report published this weekend by sports finance outlet Calcio e Finanza suggests Tadej Pogačar is earning in 2022.
The Calcio e Finanza study shows the top 20 salaries for male pro cyclists in 2022. Although the numbers are best-guess calculations rather than confirmed team paychecks – and some of the data is likely based on 2021 salaries – the list gives an interesting flavor of what’s going on in the big business of pro cycling.
Before we dive into some of the interesting details, here’s the list:
Top-20 wages, per Calcio e Finanza
- 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
- Michał 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
- Primož Roglič (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 Team Emirates): €1.8 million
Ineos Grenadiers still boasts bumper bank balance
The results may have slowed down slightly for Ineos Grenadiers, but the funding sure hasn’t.
According to Calcio e Finanza, the British super-squad has four of the top 10 earners in 2022, and six of the full 20. Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, Michał Kwiatkowski, and Richard Carapaz all sit in the top nine, costing Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos outfit some €11.0 million ($12.2 million) in total.
The Team Sky/Ineos squad has long been known to dish out the most lucrative dollars, and Chris Froome was a regular at the top of salary scales throughout the past decade.
The sponsor shift to chemicals giant Ineos in 2019 hasn’t changed that. The Ratcliffe-led multi-national is believed to be the fourth largest of its kind with its $61 billion turnover, and has stakes in sports from sailing to soccer. It’s got money to burn and a logo to sell.
Although Thomas is believed to earn below what is reported above, his salary will still be suitably seismic, and paypackets will be weighty through the Ineos roster. It would be fascinating to see what the team pays its youngest rising stars, but you can bet it will be a lot more than that of its rivals.
Big scores means big salary for Tadej Pogačar
If you want to keep the next Eddy Merckx wearing your jersey, you gotta pay for it.
UAE Emirates is giving Tadej Pogačar €6 million per season to keep the 23-year-old sensation on the books. Extrapolate that out over the remaining six years of his contract and the total is staggering. Yep, Pogačar’s near-future is currently valued at a cool €36 million ($40 million).
With two Tours de France titles and two monument victories already under his very slim belt, Pogačar is no doubt the dominant rider of the era.
But more importantly for both him and his UAE Team Emirates squad, he should have at least 10 years left in his legs. That’s a whole lot of talent and a veritable pipeline of future results. Whether it justifies the eye-watering wages paid by mega-rich Emirati tycoons is up for debate.
Past results trump future success
A quick glance at the top four in the report shows that it’s not always what you might do in the future — but what you’ve done in the past — that counts.
Stuttering stars of past seasons Chris Froome, Peter Sagan, and Geraint Thomas are next in line behind Tadej Pogačar in terms of top salaries, but certainly not in terms of sure-fire future success.
Although Thomas and Sagan could still surprise, the duo is far from anyone’s eyesight in 2022.
Sagan was bettered by upcoming teammate Antony Turgis at Milan-San Remo, and Thomas may not even be selected for this year’s Tour, despite winning it in 2018.
And Froome? With his 37th birthday on the horizon and ongoing questions about his competitiveness, no one is betting on him hitting a podium any time soon.
But what Froome, Sagan and Thomas lack in recent results, they make up for in bringing a team prestige, expertise and future funding. Those things aren’t results, but they count.
Small teams have to spend big
Second-tier teams may not have the biggest budgets, but they still have to muscle up with WorldTour superpowers to stay competitive.
Peter Sagan’s salary at the second-division TotalEnergies is an outlier given the team’s radical reinvention at the turn of the season. However, the ProTeam squads Alpecin-Fenix and Arkéa-Samsic also make the list, with Mathieu van der Poel and Nairo Quintana earning 13th and 19th most respectively.
That Alpecin-Fenix and Arkéa-Samsic can stretch to €2.0 million for “MvdP” and “Nairoman” points to the self-perpetuating system of pro cycling.
The teams’ top ranking in the ProTeam division means they reap the benefits of being automatically invited to the world’s biggest races. In turn, that means they can pay their two biggest stars sufficient to keep them generating the results needed to top the points tables.
The unknown numbers behind personal sponsors
Calcio e Finanza states its list is based on salaries, but it’s not clear whether personal sponsors are included. And those outside-the-team deals can stack up fast.
Mark Cavendish, one of the biggest cycling names of the century, doesn’t make the list published this weekend. However, it’s well-known that his sprint successes at Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl are funded by his own personal backers. Who the contributing partners are is unknown, but the Manxman has a host of past and future partners, ranging from luxury watch brand Richard Mille to Nike shoes, Specialized bikes and much more.
Likewise, Sagan has a huge host of collaborations, including at 10-year tie-in with Sportful, and Froome has his fingers in a range of blossoming tech brands.
Riders like Cavendish, Sagan and Froome can afford their Monaco mansions thanks to their multiple revenue streams. Accounting for those lucrative extra partnerships could change Calcio e Finanza’s countdown significantly.
Cycling is still small-fry
Pro cycling’s top salaries are staggering and are likely to continue increasing. But they’re pocket-money compared to some of the world’s wealthiest sports.
Soccer superstar Lionel Messi is reported to be earning $130 million in 2022 at his Paris Saint-Germain team, with up to $100 million from salaries and bonuses and the remainder from endorsements.
Meanwhile, top Formula One drivers Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are believed to be banking $40 million and $25 million, respectively, this racing season.
The NBA’s Stephen Curry is on $45 million per season, while the entire team budget for the New York Mets in baseball is close to $250 million per season.
Tadej Pogačar will need to win a lot more yellow jerseys to match those numbers.