It’s that time of year again! The Tour de France is in town! Okay, not my town, or yours either perhaps, but you know what I mean. Arguably the biggest annual sporting spectacle on the planet is in full swing! Images of the peloton effortlessly sweeping through lush European landscapes and cresting epic climbs are plastered all over the screens of your favourite cycling websites and TV channels.
These riders are the cream of the crop. The best of the best. Professional cyclists who get to ride their bikes every day and get paid to do so. Sounds like the dream! But would professional cycling really be a dream job? Would YOU trade everything to go pro? Let’s take a little dive into the pros and cons of getting paid to ride your bike…
Free bikes! Every year you get a new top-of-the-line race bike. Maybe two, an aero bike and a climbing bike. You may even get a time trial bike thrown into the mix. Add to that a professional mechanic to keep them clean and running smoothly and that’s quite a sweet deal. By far, this has got to be the number one perk of the pro cyclist. There aren’t many downsides to this, unless of course your team’s bike sponsor hasn’t got very good bikes. Still, free bikes are hard to complain about!
You get to travel the world. With early season races starting in January in Australia, then travelling through the Middle East, America and Europe, you get to visit many more places each year than the average person. Topping up your summer tan in the hills of Adelaide at the Tour Down Under, then flying to Belgium to crush some cobbles. Riding your bike all over the globe every year. Whether you get to actually “experience” much of each country is debateable of course, and all that travel comes at a personal cost.
You don’t have to mow the lawn. That is all. Moving on…
Access to the best. If you’re lucky enough to be on a top tier team with a sizeable budget, you’ll have access to the best of the best when it comes to training information, nutritional advice and coaching. There’s no need for any guesswork when it comes to your training or becoming the best cyclist you can be. You’ll have all the lab testing and expert training advice you could ever wish for and more.
You spend a lot of time away from home. All that travel means hundreds of nights in hotels away from friends, family and your social circle of home. You train with your team, eat with your team, race with your team. Your teammates and team staff may be the only people you interact with for months, while your loved ones are back at home trying to live a regular life in your absence. I don’t know. Some people may see this as a plus point! 😉
You have to ride your bike. Don’t feel like riding today? Well that’s fine for you. As a professional athlete on a team you may not get that luxury. If that double mountain ascent is on the training plan and the coach says ride, you ride! There’s a big difference between wanting to ride your bike, and having to.
At some point, you WILL crash. Crashing hurts and broken bones keep you off your bike. Let’s face it, if you’re a professional bike rider you are going to come off your bike and hit the deck at least once on your career. It may just be some scrapes and bruises, it may be career threatening, but at some point you will crash. Maybe that crash will be caused by you coming into a corner too hot chasing valuable seconds, or perhaps you’ll be swiftly taken out by some self centred attention whoring muppet with a giant cardboard sign…
Money, money, money. Unless you’re one of the top riders on a team or have additional sponsors, the money is arguably poor. Team leaders, race winners and “big personalities” may be on millions, but there’s a good chance you earn more coin at your current nine-to-five gig than many of the lesser know professionals, especially at anything below World Tour level. The 2021 minimum wage for men at World Tour level is €40,045 (US$48,000, £41,000). For the World Tour women the minimum wage is only €20,000 (US$24,000, £17,000).
So, if you had the raw talent to turn pro, would you want to? Or would you stick to your “day job” and ride simply because you love riding? Is there anything I’ve missed from my list? Let me know!