The Tour de France is the only bike race that gets any kind of general media coverage in North America.
Which means it's the one time we actually see much of the European pro team jerseys, all at once. And maybe that's not a good thing, because really: it's not a pretty sight.
As a collection, they been beaten hard with the ugly stick: too busy, too goofily "graphical", mostly with colour schemes that just downright hurt the eyes. And it’s been that way for a while. Seven Tour wins, and can anybody remember a single jersey Lance wore? Were any of them even remotely iconic? (US Postal? Really?) Possibly it’s because so many of the sponsors these days just have crap logos. Maybe it’s because sponsoring a pro cycling team is so financially idiotic that it takes 3 or 4 of them at a time to make a go of it, guaranteeing a dog’s breakfast of a jersey.
OK, Sky is pretty good. Certainly the best of a bad lot. And it never hurts to have the glow of a winner not named Armstrong attached to it. In fact, I'd argue that some of Sky's success as a team can be attributed to the fact that putting on that jersey doesn't make you look like a dork. That has to be worth at least 3 minutes in the General Classification.
|Adds a good 0.5 watts per kilo|
|You've lost the minute you put it on|
Here then, are my personal rankings of this year's pro circuit jerseys:
Really. No contest.
And from what I could see in the UK last week, the punters are already snapping up the Sky replicas. This should come as no surprise with Froome's win, but an actually cool design makes it a lot safer to wear in the pub than, say, Astana.
Bearable & possibly wearable:
Belkin is crisp and uncluttered, but that's one dire shade of hospital waiting-room green. Euskatel might have made the top 3 if not for that giant, goofy old-school phone poking out of the side of it (see "Big Graphic Things!", below). Similarly Cofidis had a great base colour and looked pretty good on the road but got undermined by that silly swoosh off the shoulder, which looks like something that got rejected as a uniform design for the Starship Enterprise. Points to Garmin, though, for the daring "argyle" motif. Yep, nothing puts the fear of God into the pro peloton like the sight of argyle.
What were they thinking?
All white? Really? I guess when your logo looks like a bathroom cleanser, Argos, it makes sense. Shimano, however, should know better. At least the AG2R guys get some colour on their shorts but it's brown for chrissake. A crappy shade of brown at that.
Big graphic things!
Somebody in the world of pro cycling jersey design seems to have got it into his or her head that a big screened-back graphical element thing bursting up through the riders' stomachs like a logo Alien was a good idea. FDJ might not be half bad without it. But for the rest it's just icing on the crap cake. Sojasun looks like a seed sack, Europcar seems to be a design rejected for the new Irish Spring bottle, and the less said about Vacansoleil the better. It's no wonder poor old Phil Liggett couldn't keep half these teams straight when he was trying to call the race.
Just flat-out hideous (and possibly detrimental to your team):
Why does it matter?
Because they're the pros. We look up to them, we copy them, we wear stuff and buy stuff to feel like them. They have a responsibility to set standards, godammit, including aesthetic ones. Certainly as far as jerseys go there seems to be a trickle-down effect to amateur clubs. I have mentioned before that a lot of the club jerseys in my area (Toronto) are not exactly monuments to great design. (Bit of a deal-breaker for me. Which is why I appreciate the DHF jersey, which is one of the nicest I’ve seen in these parts.) But as Sky and Movistar demonstrate: the field is wide open for making a mark with a really beautiful team jersey.
Next up:The best team jerseys of all time. In my humble opinion.