Professional cyclists make their money from advertising, competitions, endorsements and by negotiating salaries with cyclist groups. Cyclists tend to compete in teams and winnings get dispersed among team members by the organization that they ride for.
The Tour de France offers several awards for cyclists depending on how they place. First place stage winners receive a little over $10,400, second place winners receive about $5,200 while third place winners take in about $2,600. Monetary prizes are given to cyclists all the way down to 20th place. Additionally, further winnings accrue through performing exceptionally in a particular aspect of an event. For instance, a yellow jersey and an award of a little more than $500,000 is given to the rider that gets the best general personal time. Other jerseys are also available for riders that score the most points in intermediate sprints at stage finishes, the best climber, the best youngest rider and the most aggressive rider. Riders that fall during the last 3 kilometers of a stage qualify with the same time as other members of their team and are eligible for the same awards. This is one reason riders look for teams that match their personal skill level.
The elite team rider gets paid anywhere between 8,000 to 10,000 per year. When a cyclist is getting ready to go professional, this often is the first intermediary step. Cyclists must work with other cyclists and develop a solid reputation winning races to prepare them for a professional tour.
For professional cyclists, one of the best ways to make a living is through entering and winning major cycling events. Once a rider wins an event, sponsors will offer incentives for them to train. Usually a sponsor requires an endorsement on the riders uniform in an event. Beginning cyclists often have to supplement their income when starting out through working in bicycle repair shops, teaching others to cycle and winning smaller local contests. A new professional male rider that is part of a team earns a minimum of $31,400. Female riders have no minimums and are often paid much less. Potential earnings increase as the rider develops and gains experience. The best riders can make upwards of $750,000 per year. Of course, since professional riders have to maintain top physical conditioning they are often young. To give age some perspective consider that the oldest rider in the 2011 World Tour was 40-year-old Jens Voigt. The youngest rider, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, hadn’t yet turned 20-years-old.