With the 100th edition of the Tour de France under way, the 198 riders competing in this year's bike race will have their sights firmly focused on the finish line in Paris. But getting there requires more than extraordinary endurance; it requires cash. Lots of cash.
Prize money from races cannot cover the costs it takes to compete; the Tour de France only awards $2.6 million total in prize money which is broken down between jersey winners for each of the race's 21 stages. Meanwhile the average annual budget for a UCI (International Cycling Union) ProTeam - a team which has obtained a license to race in all World Tour races including the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta a España - is $11.4 million.
Seventy one percent of that budget is devoted solely to payroll; auditors Ernst & Young put the average salary for a UCI ProTeam rider is at $142,000, but annual salaries for top riders in the Tour can go up to $5 million.
That leaves a big funding gap to cover the costs of equipment, transportation, hotels and salaries for coaches and trainers and medical staff in its 240-day competition calendar. And that is where sponsors come in, and where cycling becomes big business.
Sponsors cover 94 percent of a team's income with 59 main sponsors for 40 professional cycling teams, including all 18 of the UCI ProTeams and 22 further teams which compete in a series of secondary races, according to a 2013 report by auditors Ernst & Young.