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In a world that’s years removed from the rise and epic fall of Lance Armstrong, cycling might not be on the average American’s mind. Still, those who put in the work and become pro cyclists can make a pretty penny once they get to the top. Let’s look at what it takes to be a pro cyclist and how much money they make.

The life of a pro cyclist

Some cyclists still climb the ladder and make their millions. While none have risen the ranks that Armstrong did before his downfall, cyclists such as Mark Cavendish have made millions in the cycling world. The life of a cyclist, however, is not as easy as some might suspect. There are few Cavendishes in the world and far more unknown names. 

Pro cyclist Luke Rowe took to his website, Rowe & King, to write about the life of a pro cyclist. He points out that when he decided to pursue bike races as a career, he had dreams of private jets and television appearances but was quickly humbled.

Rowe speaks about how life on the road can be tough, and with so many people involved in the biggest races, the hotels they get are not always pleasant places to sleep.

The physical toll

On top of the harsh life away from home, racing hundreds of miles at a time strains a cyclist’s body, with the obvious dangers of crashing added to this, as The Daily Globe explains.

“People understand how tiredness and fatigue affect a cyclist, but they don’t always realize how much of a beating your body takes,” Rowe wrote on his website. “If you hit the ground at 50-70kph when all you are wearing is Lycra, with no protection against walls or signposts and things, it’s grim. It’s like a battle zone out there.”

Cyclists also have to watch what they eat. They exist on a plane that most cannot relate to where they have to eat enough calories to withstand a long race while also making sure that they are not eating things that will slow them down or cause their undue body stress. 

According to Bicyclist Blog, the average racer cycles over 10,000 kilometers a year. To achieve that, people cannot merely cycle on their free time. They have to devote their lives. If this works, however, the pay goes up exponentially, from thousands of dollars to millions. 

The pay scale

In the early stages of a pro career, reports Bicyclist Blog, continental team riders make anywhere from nothing to a few thousand bucks. The compensated riders in this stage can make up to $37,700 annually, however. Once a rider elevates their status, the pay gets better. Pro continental riders make anywhere from $26,200 to $171,200. If riders can get past this point, however, the payment gets more lucrative. 

The ultimate goal for many cyclists, however, is to make it onto the UCI World Tour, where the minimum wage is $2.35M. Pro Continental squads also make a lot of money, with their minimum hovering around $2.3M. Winning significant events, however, can increase this pay exponentially. The major events will shell out millions, as cycling is a bigger deal overseas. 

Like any professional competitive atmosphere, nobody lucks into a career as a professional cyclist. They must dedicate their lives to the craft and push their bodies past the places most people can go. If they can be one of the rare people who make it to the top-tier of professionalism, however, they get paid handsomely to do so.

Next time you see somebody chugging along at a major race, think about everything they must have gone through to get to that moment. 


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