Contador proposes salary caps for pro cycling

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) has made the case for a salary cap for professional cycling teams, in the interest of making the sport more competitive and sustainable.

As the Spaniard sat down for his final Grand Tour rest-day press conference ahead of the final week of the Vuelta a España, he was asked about financial inequality – an issue that has come under the spotlight recently as the wealth and spending power of Team Sky was juxtaposed with Cannondale-Drapac's struggle to simply survive.

Sky's Chris Froome leads the Vuelta after winning the Tour de France, with two of his support riders in the top 15, while Sky recently unveiled their futuristic 'race hub' vehicle as well as signing three of the sport's leading U23 riders in Egan Bernal, Pavel Sivakov and Kristoffer Halvorsen. 

"I'll tell you my point of view, but I want you to understand it isn't aimed at any particular team – Sky or anyone else – but rather with the future of cycling in mind," Contador began.

"I think there should be a salary cap. You have to decide what the amount should be, for example 15 million Euros on rider salaries. Because if budgets start to go through the roof, we're going to find it difficult to attract sponsors at all.

"Not all sponsors can meet sums that massive corporations can. When you go to a sponsor and ask for 12 million for a three-year project, that's an investment of 36 million, and big outlays like that might not even see you fighting for the podium at the Tour de France."

Froome voiced his opposition to the idea of budget restrictions when asked about the issue on the Vuelta's previous rest-day last Monday. The four-time Tour de France champion conceded that the level of support he and his teammates enjoy at Sky is, in a way, 'unfair', but he argued that any attempt to artificially redress the balance would be tantamount to communism.

"Everybody's going to be the same. We should all ride the same bikes, have the same equipment sponsors, all eat the same rice and porridge every morning so no-one's got added fuel for the stage," he said. "Where do you draw the line?"

'Nothing is impossible'

Contador lies 9th overall at the Vuelta, 3:59 down on Froome and nearly two minutes off the podium with six stages remaining.

The Spaniard's ambitions were dealt a major blow as early as stage 3 with an off-day on the road to Andorra and, despite regaining his forces to repeatedly animate the race, he lost ground on the Sierra Nevada summit finish on Sunday.

"I'm pretty happy with my Vuelta so far," said Contador. "On the Andorra stage, I was sick and struggling all day. Without that stage, it would all look very different now. But on the other hand, there have been some great stages, and I've done pretty well."

The race continues on Tuesday with the all-important 40km Logroño time trial, followed by two key mountain stages, with summit finishes at Los Machucos and the Angliru.

"The time trial is going to be very hard, and after it we'll know if my goal will be stage wins or the GC," he said.

Asked whether the podium was still possible, he added: "It is going to be difficult, but there are still major stages to come and it is still possible to see what I can do.

"It's obviously a long way off. After Andorra, everyone thought my podium chances had gone. But I told my teammates I'd had a bad day with stomach problems and, if all went well, the podium was still possible. After yesterday, it's more difficult. I have rivals who are going very strongly, especially Miguel Ángel López. But nothing is impossible."

Contador, however, insisted he isn't attaching undue importance to his final position in Madrid. He said he was "savouring every minute" of his final race, and lapping up the public affection he has received throughout. Once again making reference to his preference for attacking over conservatism, he vowed to stay true to himself in his final week as a racer.

"For me it is satisfying to enjoy the Vuelta a España the way I am doing, independent of the final result," he said. "I think people will remember my final result of this Vuelta less than other results in my career. Personally, I'm going to remember the sensation more than the result."

In other words, there should be at least enough action on the horizon to keep podcasting prognosticators busy for a little while longer.

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Patrick Fletcher
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2022 he has been Deputy Editor, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.