Have you ever wondered how the whole pro and amateur team structure worked within professional cycling?  ProTour, Pro Continental, Continental…what does it all really mean?  I looked into it and here’s the scoop…

The UCI puts road teams into three categories: ProTour, Pro Continental and Continental.  ProTour and Continental teams are managed by the UCI and the Continental teams are governed by national federations (i.e. Cycling Australia, Canadian Cycling Association, USCF, etc).  If you want to race professionally you must ride for a UCI team.   Here are the differences between how much the professional cyclists get paid, the registration fees, the roster size, etc.  All figures in USD .

ProTour

(Formerly Division I trade team)

Roster Size: 25 rider minimum, 30 rider maximum

Minimum Salary: $47,000  ($38,000 for neo-pros). That’s not a lot of money for a pro athlete!

Bank Guarantee: Minimum $900,000, or 25% of the team’s payroll for staff.

UCI Registration Fee: $68,000, plus $34,000 license fee (to UCI ProTour reserve fund)

Contribution to Biological Passport Program: $163,000

Example: Quickstep, Astana, Columbia-High Road. There are 18 registered ProTour teams in 2009

Pro Continental

(Formerly Division II trade team)

Roster Size: 16 rider minimum, 25 rider maximum

Minimum Salary: $39,000  ($33,750,000 for neo-pros).

Bank Guarantee: Minimum $290,000, or 25% of the team’s payroll for staff.

UCI Registration Fee: $16,300

Contribution to Biological Passport Program: $81,500 for teams with a wildcard label, $10,000 per rider for teams without wildcard.

Example: Team BMC is only US Pro Conti team in 2009.   Barloworld, Agritubel, Cervelo Test Team.  There are 21 teams registered in 2009 as Pro Continental.

Continental

(Formerly Division III trade team)

Roster Size: 8 rider minimum, 16 rider maximum.  There’s some dodgy exceptions to this that teams blatantly abuse to meet the under 28 age requirements, but that’s another blog post in itself.

Minimum Salary: None.  Many are volunteer bike racers hoping to make it big.

Bank Guarantee: Minimum $5,500, or 10% of the team’s rider contracts.

UCI Registration Fee: $9,160

Contribution to Biological Passport Program: None

Example: In US: Rock Racing, OUCH-Maxxis, Colavita-Sutter, etc.  In Australia:  Drapac, Savings & Loans, Budget Forklifts,   Fly V (Virgin Blue), AIS, Praties

You can find all the registered Pro-Continental and Continental registered teams here .

The only reason a team would register to be Pro Continental over Continental is so they can participate in the bigger races like ProTour events and possibly the Grand Tours (if their wildcard is drawn).  Since many US team sponsors have no market in Europe it makes no sense for them to spend the money to register as Pro Continental when they have no interest in racing in Europe anyway.  Continental status suits them just fine.

As you can see, if you’re gunning to become a professional athlete, you might want to consider baseball or cricket as your sport of choice if you’re in it for the money.  I don’t think you can possibly find a more difficult and demanding sport over cycling and still get paid next to nothing.