At the Tour de France 2020, Tadej Pogačar won the yellow jersey, the polka dot jersey, the best junior jersey and a sweet payday for his team.
The Tour de France is the glittering jewel in the crown of cycling, the sport’s most polished and prestigious production. Every year it is broadcast to an audience of millions around the world. It’s the cycling world championship, the Eurovision Song Contest and the Grand Final all rolled into one.
But does that huge global audience mean huge prize money?
It depends how you look at it.
The 2021 Tour de France has a total prize pool of 2,228,450 euros (2,642,340 US dollars / 3,516,770 AUD) – around 60,000 euros less than in the last two editions.
For mere mortals like you and me, that’s a considerable sum. But it’s pretty modest prize money compared to other major sports. Take the Wimbledon tennis tournament with a prize pool of £ 35,000,000 as an example (€ 40,799,650), of which the winners of the men’s and women’s singles each pocket a check in novelty for £ 1,700,000 (€ 1,981,697).
As for the tour? For three exhausting weeks, the winner of the overall ranking takes home 500,000 euros, a smart cup in the shape of a bowl and a plush toy in the shape of a lion.
The stuffed lion is awarded daily to the wearer of the yellow jersey and is the actual prize of the Tour de France.
From then on, the prize money drops sharply, divided between the remaining drivers in the race. The runner-up gets € 200,000, but in 19th place in the overall standings it’s only € 1,100 – enough for a pair of titanium eeWings cranks and a round of Dominos Pizza (but only from the extra.) Value range – nothing special) for the whole team. Drivers from the 20th to the 160th will be rewarded with € 1,000 each; € 47 for each day of racing.
But it’s not just the last big (or small) payday in Paris that drivers are scrambling for.
Sam Bennett on his way to a stage win and a Maillot Vert in Paris, 2020.
The entire prize pool is cut and diced throughout the race, in intermediate sprints and stage wins, mountain peaks and combat ability prizes. Euros are an abstract thing, but tangible things from real life are not, so CyclingTips has helpful decided to provide real-world comparisons of what riders can buy with their prize money for each of them.
A stage win in the Tour de France costs 11,000 euros – not quite enough for an S-Works Aethos. Tenth place on a stage brings a driver a more modest 600 euros – enough for a pair of CeramicSpeed sliding gears made of titanium – while places 15 to 20 are no different financially: 300 euros or not quite enough for the shoes on their feet the rider.
Mark Cavendish at the time of earning € 11,000.
The points on a sprint stage meanwhile contribute to the green jersey, whose wearer collects 300 euros per day and the winner of this classification takes home 25,000 euros. Even if a driver places in an intermediate sprint, there is a financial incentive in addition to the points. The winner receives 1,500 euros, the third place deserves more than just the fleeting admiration of his fellow campaigners: He receives 500 euros, what a prize very well soiled 2002 Renault Twingo (with € 10 replacement for snacks at the petrol station on the way back from pick-up in Marseille).
Like the winner of the green jersey, the finisher in the King of the Mountains classification will also be rewarded with 25,000 euros, with cash prizes for every single categorized climb in the race. These range from 5,000 euros for the souvenir Henri Desgrange – the highest point of the race at Port d’Envalira on the 15th stage – to 200 euros for a climb in the fourth category. If a driver strings a few of these together, he can possibly head towards it a subtle height tent for the head (a bargain for € 360).
All of these prize money will be collected together in the team’s piggy bank over a period of three weeks. Since cycling is a team sport, it is common for the total to be split between riders and staff, which means Tadej Pogačar (to put a totally hypothetical winner of this year’s race out of his mind) doesn’t need the full half a million in homeland Slovenia.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
From the first day of rest, team competition manager Bahrain Victorious leads the running prize money in various outliers thanks to several stage wins and hardworking bees. At the bottom of the spectrum is the bad Qhubeka-NextHash, the brought a cryptocurrency sponsor for the event, but little real money pocketed. Currently they are sitting enough for a RyanAir team-binding trip to Zagreb for the tour squad and 10 employees.
||Prize money (€)
||UAE team Emirates
||AG2R Citroën team
||Israeli start-up nation
||B&B Hotels p / p KTM
||Intermarché Wanty Gobert materials
As for the drivers who contribute to these team pools? It is perhaps predictable that Pogačar – with a stage win, a short but growing stint in yellow, and a longer stint in white – would lead that record and do most of the work for the UAE team Emirates’ kittens.
||Prize money (€)
||Mathieu van der Poel
Of course it is Drivers and team members receive a wage – so these numbers are more of a performance bonus than a direct reflection of the value of their efforts.
At the end of the tour – especially if you are the hypothetical future Tour de France winner, Tadej Pogačar – these prizes will continue to rise. When the curtain falls on the Champs-Élysées, the teams and drivers will scatter to their distant corners of the world, deep tans engraved on their skin, covered in healing, peeling road rash.
Some will have made their name and fortune. Others did enough for a slightly dirty night at a Parisian nightclub, some overpriced Heinekens and a nightly kebab on the way back to the Ibis.