How much do world’s best cyclists earn?

It's not chump change, but pales in comparison to hoops or soccer

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Aaron Gwin Racing at Finals of 2017 Leogang MTB World Cup

Aaron Gwin is a five time World Cup overall champion.

How much does it pay to be the world’s best? If you’re Lebron James, that number hovers around $88 million a year (salary, plus endorsements). That sounds outlandish, but it makes sense. The NBA is one of the world’s most popular sporting leagues and King James is among the greatest players of his generation. Surprisingly though, James isn’t the highest paid athlete in the world. According to Forbes, that honor goes to Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, who earns an estimated $93 million.

In professional cycling, things are decidedly less extravagant. When recently asked about his annual earnings, five time World Cup overall champion Aaron Gwin estimated his annual compensation to be about $1 million after factoring in salary, sponsorships, bonuses, prize money, and royalties from signature products. Scroll forward to the 8:08 mark of the video below to hear Gwin talk about his earnings. (We’ll let you decide about the merits of the rest of the video…)

Compared to your average joe, that doesn’t sound so bad. It’s not Lebron money, but the UCI World Cup DH circuit consists of seven races plus world champs. The NBA season has 82 games plus playoffs.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan is one of the world’s most popular cyclists.

However, it is interesting to compare Gwin’s salary to Peter Sagan. Both riders deliver breathtaking performances on the bike and generate wins, yet Sagan is rumored to earn roughly double the downhiller’s entire paycheck in just salary.

The mountain biker turned road racer joined the Bora-Hansgrohe team last year on a three-year contract worth 6 million euro. Once winnings, bonuses, and royalties are factored in, Sagan’s take home pay likely exceeds two million annually. And just in case you’re wondering about taxes, remember he lives in Monaco, which doesn’t collect personal income tax.

What do you think of Gwin’s take home pay? Is it in line expectations, or does the sport need to do more to reward athletes and encourage growth?

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  • Phil says:

    Hmmm, we’re going use this dude’s video to drive traffic on our site, but we’re going to be snarky about it, to make it clear who the pros are here.

  • ColinL says:

    TdF is covered on at least one major network in every region. Hundreds of thousands of fans travel to go see it. Of course Sagan makes more than Gwin.

    There is a direct relation between the number of fans watching events on television and in person to the amount of advertising dollars, the amount of salary teams are willing to pay, and the compensation of the top athletes.

    …For everything except for NCAA Basketball. The ‘student-athlete’ sees absolutely no monetary gain from the multi-billion dollar March Madness tournament and regular season.

    • westernmtb says:

      The revenue from D1 college basketball and football funds other D1 sports like golf, tennis, lacrosse, field hockey, swimming, track and field, baseball, softball, etc. which are all money losers.

      In effect, D1 basketball and football players are subsidizing the scholarships for all other student athletes in other sports.

  • zipp23 says:

    Aaron who…??

  • Chappy Z says:

    Why are we discussing the discrepancy between two male riders when the greater injustice is how little female cyclist make compared to the lowest paid men.

  • Peper says:

    I’m surprised that they are that close. There are only 7 WC events for DH and Segan rides multi day races with a team and tactics more advanced than grip it and rip it.

  • CrashTestDummy says:

    There definitely is more money in road biking because of the popularity compared to DH mountain biking. If Sagan make 2 million just in salary, he must make a ton more on endorsements. I ride like it is my job but don’t get paid for it. Haha. Just the pleasure of riding.

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