Sir Bradley Wiggins says he is against the idea of a salary cap being introduced in cycling despite the prospect of Team Sky enjoying an even bigger budget than it has to date when it becomes Team Ineos in May.
Last week, it was confirmed that the petrochemicals group founded and controlled by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, the UK’s richest man, had agreed to buy the team’s management company from Sky and 21st Century Fox.
The prospect of Team Ineos having more financial clout than it currently does – Team Sky’s 2017 accounts show a total budget of £34.5 million, which includes contributions from all sponsors, and the prospect of it having even more financial clout has led to calls for a salary cap to be introduced.
In the latest episode of his Eurosport podcast The Bradley Wiggins Show, however, the 2012 Tour de France champion welcomed the change in sponsorship and outlined why he thought a salary cap wouldn’t work.
He said: “You have to think it's a brilliant thing for cycling. One major backer go out, Sky, in terms of what they have done for cycling, and this one coming in replacing Sky. Obviously everyone is talking about the money input that Sky have put into it and this guy has now put more money in.”
UCI president David Lappartient said that a salary cap is “something that can be discussed,” but Wiggins disagrees.
“It's hard to sit here and try and not be hypocritical and say they should have salary caps, because when we were riders you want to make as much as you can, when you can, because it is such a short career,” he explained.
“It's only 20 years ago that Bjarne Riis was on €200,000 when he won the Tour in '96. When you consider that now with what these guys are on.
“Even 10 years ago, the likes of Andy Schleck would only have been on €1 million, now these guys are earning €4 million. You can't sit here now and say, 'we need to have a salary cap just to make it better'.
“One of the things I will say for Dave [Brailsford] is that he has always said, 'I don't follow what the sport is doing now, I want to try and envisage what I want the sport to look like in 10 years' time and try and do that now',” “Wiggins continued, outlining some of the innovations that Team Sky had brought to the sport.
“You can say that it's spoiling the sport. Is Dave the one who has got the problem? Or is it that everyone else needs to catch up with them? It's a tough one at this stage and the void is just getting bigger and bigger on a Grand Tour level. But what I will say is that on the one-day stage it is just as competitive.”
Magnus Backstedt, winner of Paris-Roubaix in 2004, was this week’s guest on the show and agreed with Wiggins that imposing a salary cap was not the solution, drawing a parallel between Team Sky’s strength in stage races and the dominance of Deceuninck-Quick Step in one-day races.
“So we have got to have a look at that as well,” he asked. “Are you allowed to have that many one-day specialist riders in a team? I don't think we can start controlling the racing from a money point of view, it has got to be done on the bike. And I personally feel that if you are behind and you are chasing, you have just got to chase harder.
"If there is a salary cap for everyone, the best organised team will still be where all the main, big riders will go anyway. Looking at what they do, their structure and everything around the riders, [Sky] do that probably the best in the world at the moment. So with that, the riders like Egan Bernal, Ivan Sosa, they are choosing that team because of what they do and how they do it,” he added.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.