2020 has been a different year in a lot of regards, and of course there has been a huge impact on triathlon racing in general and also for Professional racing. This post has a look at the “raw numbers” on the Prize Money paid in 2020, but with the lower number of races this season a discussion about the limitations of these numbers (and what is not included) is even more important than for other years. I will close with a discussion of some trends that we have seen this year (beyond the simple observation of “lower numbers”) and what we might see in future seasons when racing is “back to normal”.
If you want to check out the 2019 lists, you can find them in my post “Deep Dive Into 2019 Triathlon Money List“.
Money List – Overview
First, here is an overview of the races that are included in the money lists and a comparison to the 2018 season. The total is shown in US$, for races that paid their prize purse in a different currency the amounts have been converted into US$. For some comments on the race types, see the “Limitations” section below.
|Type||Description||Total Money||Change to
|Ironman (1)||WTC Ironman-branded races||$ 200.000||-92%||3 (32)||49 (277)|
|70.3||WTC 70.3-branded races||$ 233.900||-89%||9 (71)||130 (400)|
|PTO (2)||PTO-supported races (incl. Bonus Pool)||$ 3.846.316||new Category||14 + Bonus||296|
|Challenge (2)||Challenge-branded full and half-distance
|$ 16.614||-98%||1 (26+Bonus)||12 (208)|
|ITU (3)||ITU World Triathlon Series (incl. Bonus Pool)||$ 250.000||– 89%||1+Bonus (8+Bonus)||101 (115)|
|SuperLeague (4)||SuperLeague Professional Events||$ 50.000||-95%||1 (4+Bonus)||20 (58)|
|Other (5)||Port of Tauranga, Hell of the West||$ 15.822||n/a||2 (9)||16 (183)|
|Total||$ 4.612.652||-50%||31 (152)||457 (767)|
Of course, prize money is only one part of how triathletes can make money in their sport. Especially the top athletes make a lot of money with sponsor payments and appearance money, but most of the sums involved in these areas are confidential. Sometimes, there is talk in the press (and sometimes even some form of acknowledgment), and here are some additional components that have been paid in 2020 but are not included in the table above. (If you’re interested in these aspects, Jordan Blanco has written an excellent post on Witsup.com about “The Economics of Professional Triathlon“.)
- Virtual Racing by Ironman
When Ironman was forced to cancel (aka “reschedule”) most of their 2020 races, they started their new “Virtual Racing” series. They even had some Pros who appeared in the race and who were paid an “appearance fee”. No official numbers have been released, my best guess is that the total sum paid out to Pros is somewhere around $ 100.000 in total.
- Challenge Davos
Challenge Davos had to be stopped during or just after the swim when a thunderstorm moved in that made racing dangerous. However, the intended prize money (€ 19.000 by Challenge and € 21.000 by the PTO) was paid out to all Pro categories competitors.
- ITU World Cups
As in other seasons, I’m only counting the top-tier “World Triathlon Series” races and the money paid out there in the ITU category. However, there are also several second-tier World Cup races where prize money was paid. As there was only one WTS event this year, a lot of the top athletes competed in the World Cups and made some additional money there.
- SuperLeague: Rotterdam “Arena Games”
SuperLeague was also forced to cancel their racing plans. They were able to put together an “Arena Games” event for ten men and ten women, swimming in a pool, riding on smart trainers and running on treadmills. I haven’t been able to find any official prize money breakdown, the 2020 numbers are estimates, probably erring towards the high side.
- Zwift Racing
There have also been races on Zwift geared towards Professional triathletes, again without official information about the total money or breakdown.
The following table lists the top 2020 money earners.
|12||Rudy Von Berg||M||USA||$86.003||$3.500||$82.503|
If you’re only looking at prize money provided by Ironman, the top earners were Katrina Matthews ($18.000) and Matt Hanson ($15.250).
Additional Observations and Trends
Of course, the big changer for the 2020 season has been Covid and the resulting race cancellations. However, there are a few additional trends that are likely going to continue to impact Pro racing even after racing has returned to a more normal level:
- With the PTO, a new player has entered the triathlon scene. They have already been the main money provider in the 2020 season, and they have big plans for 2021 as well. With another big-purse event (the Collins Cup with $2 million for the athletes who make the teams) they are likely going to extend their #1 position.
- Prize Money provided by WTC has declined from year to year even before Covid. Their Pro racing calendar until early June 2021 has a total of $850.000 – the corresponding number for 2019 was almost $1,5 million. It seems very likely that the decline is going to continue further.
- The 2020 dip in Professional racing is not evenly distributed, for example Asia and South America haven’t seen any Pro races in 2020. When Ironman was sold in early 2020 they have stated that they want to continue to offer races in China, but currently there are no Pro races planned and all Chinese races are planned for “TBD”. Hopefully, there will be a good number of races across the globe in 2021.