The title to this post is very accurate. We, cyclists, make shit for salary. Compared to nearly any other professional sport, cycling is on the low end of the pay scale.
There is really not fairness in sports in general. There is a huge disparity in what different athletes get paid for what they do. American sports, ie,. baseball, basketball, and football, plus football (soccer) in Europe, make much more money than all other sports.
There is a guy in baseball, Giancarlo Stanton, that just signed a contract for $325 million dollars. Yeah, that isn’t for one year, it is for 13, but the number is staggering. But, you don’t have to go the top to get to a staggering number. The average baseball player makes over $3,000,000 a year. That is average.
I remember talking to Thomas Frischknecht at the MTB World Championships in France, about 15 years ago. He was here in the US on day one when mountain biking started getting traction. He was so amazed how much more money was in the sport and how well we were all doing. He was sponsored by Ritchey, Oakley, maybe even Google too(I’ve been corrected, it was Yahoo Sports). He was making good money compared to other cyclist, road too.
I told Thomas that if you added up the salaries of all the 200 guys on the start line, it wouldn’t equal the salary of one, just one major league baseball player. And it has only gotten worse.
But, then compare our sport to nordic skiing. There are a few skiers that make a living, but not many. A couple Olympic’s ago, I could have sponsored, personally, myself, a woman that was skiing in the Olympics, for $5000. She would have skied around with my name on her. That is about the same as what I got paid for sunglasses when I was riding MTB bikes. Crazy.
The baseball player, Stanton, that is making $325,000,000. His contract is most likely bigger than the total budgets for all professional cycling for a year. That is all cycling teams- Sky, BMC, Astana, Garmin-Sharp, etc. That isn’t just the salaries of all the professional cyclists. It is the salaries for the riders, the support, all the plane tickets, team buses, cars, everything.
I think this is a big reason that the professional teams started Velon, a joint venture to drive the development of the sport. Personally, I don’t think they are going to have too much success. I think that cycling attracts a lot of quirky characters and that it is going to be very hard to get all these guys thinking global and not selfishly. I hope they are successful though. Cycling is a very difficult sport and the riders deserve to make a decent wage.
The UCI does have a miminum salary. I think it is 27.500 EUR for a Pro Conti Team and
30.000 EUR for a Pro Tour Team.
But those minimums don’t apply to most of the riders here in the US. Most the domestic pros, here in the US, are not making anywhere near mimimun wage. The majority of guys aren’t getting paid $1000 a month. Some just a couple hundred a month, or nothing at all. Some profession.
Cycling has historically been a blue collar sport. It pretty much still is. There are a few guys, very few, that can save enough, during their careers that they can retire with enough money to really retire. The rest of the riders are doing it for the love of the sport. That says a lot.