Stybar turn Down €800000 For a Cyclocross Season

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I saw an article at Cyclingnews that said that the Telenet-Fidea cross team offered Zdenek Stybar €500000 to ride for them, plus they estimated that he would earn at least €300000 in appearance fees and prize money, maybe more. And he turned them down.

Man, that is a lot of cash for a cross season. €800000 is approximately $1,100,000. I very much doubt he get paid that much to ride on the road, but what do I know about that. He did have a pretty good road season last year.

Anyway, if he did take the offer and won the prize money that Hans van Kasteren, team manager for Telenet-Fidea, estimated, then he would be for sure making more money than all the salaries off all American cyclocross racers combined. By a large margin, probably by a factor of 2 or 3. Is that crazy to think? We have more participation in the sport of cyclocross than anywhere else in the world and one road rider in Europe can demand a salary more than all riders in the US combined.

As far as I can tell, only the cycling industry is cashing in on the cyclocross craze here. And I’m not so sure they are even doing that to a large degree. USAC is getting a lot more money from entries and sanctioning races. And the UCI is making a ton more money from sanctioning too, for sure. But, the riders aren’t making squat.

For cyclocross to become a viable sport in the United States, there needs to be sponsorship to pay enough for a sustainable National Circuit for professionals. That isn’t the case. It has never been the case. The travel costs for flying around the country, chasing UCI points, just for lining up at races, mainly Nationals, is astronomical. So astronomical that many riders have already started to just bail on the travel and focus on their local series. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but it isn’t going to advance the sport to the next level financially. Right now Elite level cross racing is a just hobby for nearly every racer involved.

There are only a handful of riders in Europe that make any money racing cross. Most are Belgian. There is only one other guy that gets paid what they offered Stybar and that is Sven Nys. All the other riders are on a lower level of salary, but they still make a good living racing cross.

I was mildly surprised to read that Trek is going to sponsor Sven in 2014. I don’t know if that means he rides Trek as of January 1st or after the season is over, but whatever the deal, I’m surprised. Nys has been riding Colnagos for as long as I can remember. And he probably gets paid a pretty penny for his bike sponsorship. Trek already puts some money in to their Trek Collective cross program, including Katie Compton, but for the money that they are paying Nys, I’d think they could have a pretty unbelievable Elite National program here in the US.

California Giant Strawberry/Specialized
have a pretty good regional, more than regional, program going. I’d say they have the most consistence, best program for cyclocross the last decade. Anthony Gallino, czar of Cal Giant, is a huge supporter of the sport of cycling, plus a really nice guy. They have sponsored more up and coming cross riders, men and women, than any other program. Plus, they have awesome strawberries.

I’m not sure why Stybar gets to race cross and Mark Cavendish can’t race on the track, when they both race for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. That is probably because Patrick Lefevere, team manager for Omega is Belgian and probably likes cross better. Maybe he likes Stybar better too?

I hope Stybar decides to race the World Championships this year. He already has dabbled, winning his team mate Tom Boonen’s charity event again for the 2nd year in a row. In the 1st Cyclingnews article, he says that if the World’s course isn’t muddy, then he has a higher chance of doing it. That would make the race way more interesting. I’m sure we’ll see him racing over the Christmas holiday like he has the last couple years. He sort of changes up the rhythm of the “normal Belgian” tempo of a race, which makes it more exciting to watch for afar.

The guy has flare on a cross bike.

The guy has flare on a cross bike.

14 thoughts on “Stybar turn Down €800000 For a Cyclocross Season

  1. mike crum

    maybe cavendish on the track is more prone to crashing and getting hurt than stybar crashing and getting hurt in cross. thats all i can think of..

  2. Bernd Faust

    Steve, the problem in the US is the “Budlight” addiction… many good braincells lost by to many good people……..
    As you mentioned in the past “Beer” is important..and the US has plenty good stuff, f.e. New Belgium or Schlafly / St. Louis or O’Fallon/MO Beer……
    CX in Belgian is like Basketball in big us-inner cities f.e. LA or New York.
    But time will tell said Wilhelm Tell.
    Maybe Stybar has class or restrictions, so $$$$ or Euro Euro is not everything and I agree with Mr. Mike Crum!

  3. Touriste-Routier

    Significant sponsorship for US CX will only come after spectators and media attention arrive. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Belgium gets 20,000 + paid attendance at major races, along with live TV coverage; this is commercially viable. At many UCI races in the US, one is fortunate to have anyone beyond friends and family watching. Crowds of 2000 are not going to cut it.

    USAC does not make a ton of money off sanctions or entry fees; the entry fees go to the organizer, and the sanction fees are not that much either- USAC sanction fees are 5% of the purse for larger events, and $50 – $75 for the smaller ones. So a $10k prize list event (of which we have relatively few) has a $500 permit fee. If there were 500 such races (again, not even close), this would only be $250k; the real number is much,much lower.

  4. John

    1º to call Stybar “a road rider” is a bit to far, as you well know he is a former World Champion and only left cross for the road last year and he is very loved in Belgium (lives there and is to be married with a Belgian girl). So when I read the artikel I was not that surprised that they offered 800.000€. A cross event in Belgium is not to compare with a US-cross not even with the one in Las Vegas, there are loads of PAYNG spectators and the whole circus that goes with it (food&beverage, VIP events). It is a booming buisness. It is a lot of money, but as he said last year when he went to the road it was a big step back financialy, and I dont think he is riding for minimum wage on the road either, so he probably was macking that kind of money before as CX rider.
    2º Cavendish is not allowed to ride on the track for a couple of reasons, like Mike Crum said allready there is the possibility of a crash that would take him out, but for Lefevre it is a bigger problem publicity wise, as you know in the 6days events, couples ride with sponsors of that particular event so not with his Omega Pharma-Quick Step outfit and on the W-Cup circuit he would ride for the GB-Sky sponsorred team and also according to Lefevre Specialized doesn`t have track bikes???? so Mark would ride the GB Pinarello bike, whilest Specialized pays him a loooooot of money to ride with them.

  5. Bernd Faust

    cool info, I thaught and others who live in Germany, that Stybar earnes more on the road than as a CX-er, therefore the move…..
    He had great results on the road this season.

  6. Mr.Frack

    Stybar is one of the cyclocross gods. If he wants to ride the road good for him, he makes his own way either way. As far as the USA goes Steve is right. Our guys don’t make anywhere their just due. But I don’t think the average American crosser (other than the elites or near elites) give a rats bum what the Pros make.

    Yea, we like to watch the Pros in the main event, but most American spectators are there for their own event or to watch a buddy or spouse race. Watching the pros ,ring the cowbell, drink adult malt beverages and eat a sandwich. Makes for a great day and I have done it plenty of times. Cyclocross is one of the few sports where you can race the same course on the same day as the Pros, then hang around drinking beer with your buds and watch the pros race. It is great fellowship.

    I just don’t very often meet local beer drinking, big gut guys who don’t actually ride cross bikes at the USA races. They all pay money to see the local college or pro teams bang heads, or watch really fast cars go in circles.

    I would like to see our Cross pros make a good living, but just don’t know if it will happen in my lifetime. I have been doing cross races for a long long time, and have seen races go from a handful to 1,500 riders a weekend. But I just don’t see where the money will come from to pay our pros.

  7. Ron

    I had the random thought the other day of what if Trek was going to make a big push for the US in Europe and the signing Nys was for the purpose of him being a mentor to one of our top US riders to be eventually signed to Trek like Powers. I’d love to see some of our top US riders do a full European season like Page does.

  8. Benji

    We need to stop the heckling and the crazy circus atmosphere of CX in the US to advance it to the next level. Big sponsors (some local here and nationally) see videos of cross and think it’s a joke with all the BS that goes on. They’re putting money into road teams but laugh at CX because it’s silly (which is perpetuated by the participants who act like bozo’s doing it).

  9. Greg

    How many actual pros are there in the US CX scene? Every race has the same 10 guys in the top 10 and then the local cat-1s in the rest of the field. Why should they get paid as much as in Belgium?

  10. Steve Tilford Post author

    Greg-16 riders started the Belgian Professional National Championships last year, so the number of participates isn’t the deciding factor on pay.

  11. Jason

    Cycling and cyclocross in the US is like golf. It is a participant social sport and leisure activity driven by large amounts of people spending obscene amounts of money on equipment believing it will make them perform as well as professionals (or just making the experience more enjoyable). Cycling and cyclocross in Belgium is like the NFL. It is a spectator sport driven by ticket, beer, and merchandise sales. They are two totally different business models. Other than Sven signing with Trek, I don’t see much suggesting any movement for either sport moving in different directions.

  12. Wes

    As far as Trek and Nys go: Nys knows that he’s heading towards the twilight of his career, and he sees the burgeoning US scene as a hotbed for growth in ‘cross at all levels. From the interviews I’ve read it seems like maybe he’s looking at this as a way to give back to the sport. I spoke with Scott Daubert at Trek a couple of months ago and it sounds like Trek is rolling out the red carpet to make Sven happy. I think that’s a great thing.
    I hope it will see him do a serious US race schedule before he retires.
    The question for Trek–and US cross racing–is whether they/we can capitalize on having Sven on a US based team.


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