The Finances of Ag2r Citroën

A look at the accounts for the Ag2r Citroën team. The arrival of the car maker Citroën has given big boost to the budget and thanks to the published accounts we can see exactly how much they got, an even how much it cost them to land this blue-chip backer.

Ag2r Citroën? AG2R La Mondiale is one France’s largest insurance companies offering pension plans, life insurance, pet cover and other savings. It’s a mutual where policy holders own the business. The firm has been a sponsor of the team since 1998, first as co-sponsor then the team was named Ag2r La Mondiale from 2000-2020. For 2021 car maker Citroën, part of Stellantis (alongside Fiat, Peugeot, Chrysler, Opel and others) came on board as the joint title sponsor and, as we’ll see, it’s brought a big increase in the budget. The legal entity behind the team is France Cyclisme EUSRL.

2021? A decent season for the team, although in an unexpected way. It was the first season sans Romain Bardet who had been instrumental in demanding more from the team: he started going to DIY altitude training camps with sports science literature in his baggage; he finished with the team having its own specialist altitude coach. The arrival of Citroën saw them go big for the classics in signing Greg Van Avermaet to link up with Oliver Naesen but only had a third place in the Ronde to show, decent but maybe they wanted more bang for their bucks. However this is a team that clocked long ago that placing in the classics scores beaucoup UCI points. The surprise was Ben O’Connor in the Tour de France, a stage win in Tignes on a Sunday was box office, his fourth place overall was something they were equally proud of. The team completed a hatrick of grand tour stage wins thanks to Andrea Vendrame in the Giro and Clément Champoussin in the Vuelta.

Now let’s get stuck into the accounts…

That’s the budget for the year in red: €23,642,629.

As this chart shows, 2021 meant a big jump in the budget, a 47% increase (for sticklers: the figure for comparison over the years is the net number of €23.5 million). It’s big but all team budgets have been going up so it hasn’t propelled them too far up the standings. We don’t know Ineos’s budget for 2021 but in 2020 they were on €50.1 million, more than double.

The jump in the budget is Citroën coming on board. A note in the accounts explains this is a five year deal and interestingly it’s a tripartite agreement between the team and co-sponsor Ag2r La Mondiale, the two corporate sponsors have signed a deal together.

Another note explains that the team hired a specialist agency to find a co-sponsor and it gets a finder’s fee for the deal worth up to €1.281 million for brokering the deal, presumably the Citroën contract.

If €23.6 million comes in, the biggest expenditure is the wage bill with a total of €15.5 million in wages and social security charges, or 65% of the team budget.

Here we can see the staff, 70 people in total with 15 managers and 55 employees. Some teams hire in staff as contractors and Ag2r may well take on additional help from time to time but they show 70 people hired on the books here.

All accounts have a balance sheet with assets and liabilities but pro cycling teams just don’t carry big assets on the books. Here the total assets for the team amount to just under €1.9 million, of which about €1.5 million is matérial de transport, the team vehicles.

Talking of which, there are liabilities too and the team has taken out two loans totalling €880k to finance a new truck and a new team bus.

So far, so normal. Loyal readers will remember the team rode Factor bikes but this ended abruptly with the team lodging a claim for unpaid money from the bike company and recording a bad debt in the books.

The 2021 accounts show the Factor claim is still unsettled, there is an outstanding debt of €1.3 million but Factor made a payment of €500k during 2021.

After falling out with Factor the squad moved to Eddy Merckx bikes but this didn’t work out either as the accounts show a new provision, this time for Belgian Cycling Factory, the parent company of Eddy Merckx (and Ridley). It says the deal agreed a cash payment as well as the supply of bikes and kit. But only a “small portion” of the cash payment was paid by the sponsor, and in return the team decided not to return the bikes, despite what the contract stipulated (a further note in the accounts suggests some of all of these Merckx bikes have been sold for cash). The dispute is ongoing with a mediator involved. It’s a reminder that bike sponsorship is typically a team’s third source of revenue after the two title sponsors and the sum involved for a World Tour team is often into seven figures, plus bikes, groupsets and wheels on top.

If money makes the wheels go round, they got more wheels for 2021 thanks to Citroën. A big increase in the budget for allowed the team to hire several big name riders. Perhaps they didn’t get the results they wanted from this but they got some of what they needed with plenty of points to ensure the team wasn’t bothered by the relegation battle and their Tour de France exceeded expectations. The squad’s Chambéry feeder team remains a good supply of talent, they can shop for big names while relying on their U23 pipeline.

Peer into the notes gives us some insight into the business of running a team, whether the use of an agency to help land a co-sponsor, or the disputes over bike sponsorship in recent years which has left the team with unexpected shortfalls. However with two strong sponsors the team looks in a stable place for the coming years. 66 year old team owner Vincent Lavenu has been hinting at retirement and if that comes he can hope to hand over a stable franchise to any successor.

27 thoughts on “The Finances of Ag2r Citroën”

  1. At the risk of being exceedingly boring their wins for 2022 don’t look too flash .. suggesting a lack of riders who can do the business at the pointy end.

    • It’s difficult for all these mid-level teams. They can’t win a grand tour, they don’t have the best sprinter and so where to get results? This depends on the sponsors a bit but in Ag2r’s case the Tour de France is a big deal so Jungels stage win will be a satisfaction and Cosnefroy did win in Quebec and was millimetres from a win in the Amstel. The team almost doesn’t have a house sprinter, but they place a lot, including in the big races. With some contracts coming up it’ll be interesting to see where the team goes next in terms of recruitment for 2024 and beyond, there’s a budget to deploy.

      • Is it fair to say that a mid-level team can’t win a GT. We had Hindley almost win at Sunweb but then win at Bora. Yates was at BEX. Maybe it’ll be harder in the future. There seem to be super talents who may be more easily identified than in previous times and they’re all going to go to the big budget teams. But someone like Roglic or Hindley was probably available to many teams early on. So too was Carapaz. If there’s one lesson I think low budget team can follow is to invest in a bunch of young sprinters and let them go when they’re expensive. Paying up for a sprinter on a low budget team always seems like folly to me, a luxury. But mid-to-low budget teams have different sponsor concerns for instance French teams doing the small French races and EF hitting every country with a race in which they have a language office or program.

        • Remco Evenepoel won a GT this year, with a QS-AV team budget that was (as far as I know) slightly smaller than what AG2R-Citroën had this year…

  2. A few things strike me.
    Whoever found the sponsor had a big pay day and that’s a lucrative exploit.

    This team has really big trouble with bike sponsors. Not only in terms of the money but the road bikes themselves are okay but these bike brands probably don’t have a cutting edge TT bike (its not without reason that BEX TT got better this year when they swapped bikes).

    When you add the nearly 30% for the payroll tax to the high income tax of France its hard to compete against a low tax country. Although its income tax rates are lower than here in Australia at the top end that payroll tax is a big chunk.
    I wonder if the rider lives in another country do they pay income tax in France.

  3. I was going to write that Monaco was a good escape route for riders, but I see not so for French nationals who have to pay French income tax. Andorra has a nice low tax system and of course there’s all the advantages of having income going through companies, working as consultants and not employees etc etc.

    • Similarly, US citizens always have to pay US income tax, no matter where they live, so moving to a low-tax country doesn’t help. I suspect it’s similar in many countries. (Note – US citizens don’t pay US taxes on top of the taxes of their country of residence. If the latter is greater than the former, then they don’t owe anything to Uncle Sam. If the latter is minimal, as in Monaco, then they still pay taxes to the US.)

      • No, it’s not the same in many countries. Only two countries have this system, the US and Eritrea, I guess they’re in good company 😉

      • You should have written “file a tax return” rather than “pay US income tax.” No matter who gets paid, my (really minor) gripe is having to pay accountant(s) to prepare both US as well as Italian tax documents each year. But if that keeps the US Social Security checks coming…:-)

  4. For 2023 a big chunk of their budget is still being swallowed up by Van Avermaet and Naessen, who just haven’t been able to bring the goods. I fear for them it will just be O’Connor and Cosnefroy who can get results in the biggest races in 2023.

    • A big chunk, possibly. but still not as big a chunk that has been and is swallowed by the to highest-paid Israel – Premium Tech riders 🙂

      And I’d say both GvA and O. Naesen have delivered something noteworthy – two 3rds in classics by the former and two 4ths by the latter – besides being the 3rd and 4th best UCI point hunters of the team.

      With the departure of Romain Bardet and the move of focus from stage races to one-day races the team somehow ended up in the middle of nowhere. It hasn’t helped a bit that the team has been among those fairly hard hit by Covid-19 cases and injuries. It wouldn’t be too difficult to name half a dozen young(er than those two overpaid and underperforming – I’m only joking! – riders) who did well at some point during the last two seasons only to suffer from setbacks.

      The competition will be tough in 2023, but I could wager a small sum on AG2R doing much better, measured both in victories and in UCI points! Winning a classic or a week-long stage race will still be beyong their reach, I’m afraid.

      • With “winning a classic” you mean a Monument, I guess, because as far as Classics are concerned not only they’ve been winning some here and there, but on top of that Cosnefroy often came so painfully close that one win might be well due (which doesn’t mean that it’s going to happen 100%, just ask Sep, only that it’s possible or even probable).

        Even a Monument could be within reach against an appropriate field and on a good day, although that’s a very long shot, but the nature of Classics, and Monuments too, is precisely offering options to a broader range of riders when compared to GTs, assuming that they’ve got the set of qualities to be up there at the pointy end, even when they aren’t athletically the strongest or supported by a superteam.

        By the way, and on a separate note, I noticed in recent discussions that when looking at a team’s success many readers (unlike inrng) mainly value GC or Classics victories, not caring that much about stage wins, even at the very top level of TDF, not to speak of Vuelta (Champoussin…). It’s curious because when debating in abstract terms the point system, many defend that more weight should be added to stage wins in stage racing, or general number of victories, but when the focus is on real stories of team success (or not), it turns out that what matters – as it always was and as it’s absolutely fine – is the specific quality of a victory rather than quantity.

        • Yes, iused “classics” in this particular case as a lazy and purposefully vague term for that class of one-day races that includes the monuments and the classics we could perhaps call “semi-monuments” 😉
          Or to express it in others words: those classics or World Tour races that one wouldn’t compare with some other classic or WT race and deem them as lesser races.
          (Bosth Bretagne Classic last year and GP de Quebec this year were great races and winning them was quite definitely a fine achievement, but cycling fans can be picky and fail to appreciate what they see if it isn’t in Belgium anf it isn’t spring…)

    • That’s broadly what could be expected, but A. Paret-Peintre and Godon who were on a promising growing curve and both hit a hard wall this season might find the right path again. Champoussin who’s a good bit younger also could go back to some winning ways, while Gall might (long call) build up an interesting future on this year’s promising Spring.
      However, no doubt that Jungels is a big loss and GVA or Naesen aren’t growing younger. I feel that the “Classics turn” didn’t work as they expected because of a lack of specific team culture, it’s not just about buying riders. In XXI century they’re specialty was historically the relatively fast men who could endure hills or attack a reduced break group, that is, what brings stage winning (or small hilly Classics): the Kirsipuu, Gerrans, Dumoulin, Nocentini, Elmiger, or the early Vino, Massi, Durand, Bouet, Kadri… it went on in recent years with Gallopin or Bakelants, of course, but meanwhile they went for a “GC turn” with Moreau, first, then it was further fostered by the random yellow stint by Nocentini, and all in all it was a decent success (considering the traditional level of the team, between modest and average), with the likes of Gadret and Peraud, or even Betancur, but also, say, Pozzovivo and the Bardet culmination. It was no doubt the best decade (barely a decade, in fact) during the now thirty years of history of the team. I guess that they felt the need to change perspective again, surely their basic attitude helped a lot with the point system (and the point system helped them, too), but, now, as for going and just winning big in the Monuments, uff.

        • Thanks, I don’t read much anymore the French media (nor many cycling specific sources, indeed) and wasn’t aware. I’d be curious to know more, if he went because of a good offer or what. He had a disappointing 2022 season but the TotA injury can be blamed at least partially, and it was only his 2nd full season in the pro ranks, probably the first time he underperformed so much against a reasonable bench of expectations after a very convincing U23 career and notable results in 2020 and 2021.

  5. Re: the question of taxes and social charges. For a sport which relies so heavily on public money, it just feels wrong (or, better said, even *more* wrong) that high-income people try to go around the tax system of the State where they were raised and often still “live” in a sense. Spain had a good Twitter “tormenta de mierda” (cf. Bolaño), or two, or several, about riders moving to Andorra, although some cases look actually more legit than others – and there are also examples of the opposite attitude.
    Spain where in some cases you can opt out the State social security switching to private ones also had a cycling related case showing why that might not be the most intelligent idea for a rider who isn’t really that rich (precisely the category which might be more tempted to look for the private “deal”); OTOH, for a finally well-paid star opting out the public system is really egoistic.

    • The health insurance, other social security, taxes, etc. might also work differently when a rider is self-employed, working for the team as a subcontractor (that is quite common).

        • I was surprised to see the listed 70 employees and then looked on the AG2R-Citroën site and counted 101! That’s made up of 33 riders and 68 management, medical, trainers, cooks, bus drivers etc. I suppose the riders, some trainers and senior management are full time and that cooks, mechanics, bus drivers and many others are on part-time or agency (intérimaire) contracts only employed as required. Still to see 10 comms staff and 15 medical surprises. It would be fascinating to see the team structure and numbers for top 1970s teams such as Brooklyn, Flandria, Ijsboerke or Molteni.

          • Medical staff might be self-employed, and also have a private practice, maybe even work for other sports teams sometimes.

            Bus drivers might be employed by the company the bus is leased from.


            Doesn’t have to be “intérimaire” contracts.

    • There are some who live in Andorra yet can often be spotted in Girona, in the past there have been Monaco residents renting small studios… while their wife rents a large “holiday home” not far away in the hills above Nice, say no more. Makes you wonder wonder when the first tax case is prosecuted because of Strava location data.

      French teams here can’t shop around like this though, they have to be legally based in France and hire riders as employees and so follow all the French rules and regulations. While other teams shop around, eg UAE is technically a Swiss team as is BikeExchange, quintessentially Belgian team Quick-Step is actually from Luxembourg, likewise Astana is run through a company there. For non-European teams maybe having their business in Europe makes work easier, but for a team riding under one flag while actually registered in another, that’s probably always tax.

    • From a UK perspective this is less of a phenomenon as you wouldn’t be able to pretend that you’d moved to a British tax haven for the riding – you run out of road quickly on Jersey or Guernsey. Whereas those moving to, say, Monaco or Andorra can claim that they work in multiple countries and might as well have their bases somewhere near the mountains.

      One irony for British riders is that arguably our most successful ever came *from* a tax haven: Cav being Manx.

  6. ” It’s a reminder that bike sponsorship is typically a team’s third source of revenue after the two title sponsors…” Thanks for pointing this out – explains the influence (too much IMHO) the bike biz has on the sport. How much do these deals add to the price of the bike Joe or Jill Crankarm buys to be like their hero…who may well be riding something custom-made far from the Asian factory where the consumer ones are made? I get regular email come-ons from an Italian outfit who claims to resell a huge number of ex-WT team bicycles. The asking price for these would indicate the teams selling ’em off post-season do indeed realize a nice chunk o’revenue as a result.

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