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Pro rider wages expected to drop to 'level of 15 years ago'

Joe Robinson
3 Jun 2020

Belgian economist predicts that some riders may even have current contracts renegotiated

The wages of professional cyclists are expected to 'fall back to the level of 10, 15 years ago' as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Belgian economist.

Wim Lagae has warned that riders could expect salaries to drop by as much as 35% while others could have current contracts renegotiated as sponsors adapt to the financial implications caused by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Interviewed by Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, Lagae painted a dour picture for any professional cyclist looking to negotiate a new contract or sign a deal with a new team this year.

'The latest figures that we have available show that sports marketing budgets worldwide will decrease by 30 to 35%,' Lagae told Het Nieuwsblad.

'It'd be strange if this were different for the sponsors of cycling teams. Football still earns a lot through media rights and income from ticketing but that's not the case in cycling with the current weak business model,' Lagae continued.

'After 30 years of constant growth, wages are set to fall back to the level of 10, 15 years ago. Even existing contracts will be renegotiated with some teams and we should expect an average reduction of 30%. The bargaining power no longer rests with the riders.'

Multiple men's and women's teams, including Astana, Mitchelton-Scott and Bahrain-McLaren, have been forced into temporary wage reductions as primary sponsors feel the economic effects of the virus. 

The biggest hit team, so far, is that of CCC Team as the Polish shoe brand that backs the team confirmed it would be withdrawing from the sport at the end of the season.

This has caused a relatively large degree of uncertainty around the futures of many riders, not least those who are out of contract at the end of the season.

Plenty of high-profile riders are looking for new deals after 2020 including Simon and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), however, it is Chris Froome of Team Ineos who is arguably the biggest rider looking for a contract in 2021.

A recent report from L'Equipe suggested that the seven-time Grand Tour winner is the second-highest earning rider in professional cycling, behind Peter Sagan, earning €4.5 million per year as his base salary.

Now 35 years old and still on the comeback from a career-threatening injury at the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine, it looks possible that Froome will be among those having to take a pay cut to continue racing into 2021.

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