(as a refresher, you can read more about how the professional cycling team structure works here)

UCI News Release:

While the number of men`s professional cycling teams has remained relatively stable over the last few years, their total budgets have increased by 36.5% since 2009, reveals a report from auditors Ernst & Young.

This result shows that cycling is in a healthy position and resisting the effects of the current global economic downturn.

In 2009, the total budget for the 39 professional men`s teams was 235 million euros. In 2012, there are 40 professional teams (18 UCI ProTeams and 22 UCI Professional Continental Teams) with a total budget of 321 million euros, according to the Ernst & Young report on the economic situation of the professional peloton. This represents an increase of 36.5%.

These figures show that the investment by sponsors continues to increase as they demonstrate their support for the sport of cycling. In 2012, there are 61 principal sponsors for the 40 professional teams, providing 73% of the teams’ revenue. This figure increases to 95% when grouped with the remaining sponsors.

In a similar vein the average annual salary of a rider with a UCI ProTeam has risen from €190,000 in 2009 to €264,000 in 2012.

UCI President Pat McQuaid commented: “It is very pleasing to see that the men`s professional cycling is prospering in these difficult times. Most of the cyclists within the professional peloton can live very well, or at least comfortably, on their salaries thanks to the support of sponsors who invest in this sport. These sponsors are attracted by the extremely good visibility cycling provides them throughout the year.”

I cannot find the 2011 or 2010 E&Y reports, however you can read a similar 2009 report here:

The reports state that the average Pro Team rider salaries (not pro-conti) have increased by the following:

2002: €100,000
2009: €190,000 (up 90% over 7 years)
2012: €264,000 (up 39% over 3 years)
2015 (my prediction at this rate): €370,000

Averages can be misleading however and I’m certain that these numbers are heavily skewed due to salaries at the top end of the scale which can be 10-20 times larger (such at Cavendish, Cancellara, Gilbert, Cadel, etc). My guess is that the median salary would be somewhere closer to €130,000 for Pro Team riders and €60,000 for Pro-Continental riders. Women and Continental riders are a wide mix of “volunteers” amongst professionals who get paid only a small wage.

The 2009 report states that only 15% of riders earn less than €40,000 a year and Professional Continental Teams (neo-professionals apart) there are no longer riders who earn less than €27,500 a year. However, the loophole around this which still takes place is that riders will bring “personal sponsors” along with them to make a contribution to the team who subsidise their salary (sometimes fully).

Back in 2010 I spoke with some pro cyclists about their salaries and they openly gave me some more revealing answers than the report above. Of course a rider’s team salary is only a portion of their total income. Prize money, bonuses, corporate events, personal endorsements, etc all contribute to a very good income by most people’s standards, but still not much compared to many other professional athletes.

I looked up the UCI’s rules for minimum salaries in 2012 and there have been a few slight changes over the past 2 years:

PRO TEAM RIDER SALARIES:

The Rider shall have the right to gross annual pay of….?This pay may not be less than the higher of the two following amounts:

a)  The legal minimum wage of the country of the nationality of the UCI ProTeam as defined under article 2.15.051 of the regulations [CT: this means that Australia’s minimum wage is slightly higher]
b)  € 30,000 (€ 24,000 for a new professional).

PRO CONTINENTAL TEAM RIDER SALARIES

The Rider shall have the right to gross annual salary of…. ?This salary may not be less than the higher of the two following amounts:

a)  the legal minimum wage of the country of the nationality of the professional continental team as defined under article 2.16.007;
b)  EUR 27,500 (EUR 23,000 for a new professional).

WOMEN’S AND CONTINENTAL TEAM RIDER SALARIES

The Rider shall have the right to gross annual pay of (amount in figures and words). (Suggestion?) This pay may not be less than the following amount:? (Choose one)

–  The legal minimum wage of the country of the nationality of the UCI Team;
–  The amount set by (name of NF) in its national regulations;
–  The minimum wage negotiated by (name of NF) with (e.g. name of riders’ union) of the country.

2.17.004: A continental or women’s team will comprise riders who may or may not be professional, in the elite and/or under 23 men’s categories for a continental team and elite women’s category for a wom- en’s team. It must have between 8 and 16 riders.

SELF-EMPLOYED RIDERS

The rider can enter into contract with the UCI ProTeam as a self-employed worker and be registered as a member of the UCI ProTeam, subject to the following provisions:

– The rider’s remuneration must be at least 150% of the amount laid down under article 10 of the joint agreement;

[CT: the “Self-Employed Rider” contracts are basically the same as “contractors” in the regular working world. The rider needs to take care of all his own insurances, taxes, etc]

Note: all information above are extracts taken from the UCI Rulebook – Part 2, Road Races (PDF) (ver 01.02.12).

SUMMARY…

It’s difficult to determine by the UCI / E&Y report if rider’s salaries are indeed increasing or if there are a few more riders at the extreme end of the scale (or if the few with high salaries have gotten higher). However, riders I’ve spoken to and from what I’ve seen on twitter, many pros don’t seem to agree that €264,000 is representative of an average rider’s wage in 2012.

In both the 2009 and 2012 reports, you can see that the UCI summarises nearly the same positive findings (in nearly the same words):

2012: “It is very pleasing to see that the men`s professional cycling is prospering in these difficult times. Most of the cyclists within the professional peloton can live very well, or at least comfortably, on their salaries thanks to the support of sponsors who invest in this sport. These sponsors are attracted by the extremely good visibility cycling provides them throughout the year.”…”This result shows that cycling is in a healthy position and resisting the effects of the current global economic downturn.”

2009: “This means that the majority of riders on UCI ProTeams have a good, or indeed very good, salary. The percentage of athletes in a precarious financial situation in this category has become negligible. As for UCI Professional Continental Teams, an increasingly large proportion of riders can live well – and even very well – from their profession.”… “In view of these figures, professional cycling seems to be relatively little affected by the global economic downturn of recent months.”