It’s silly season in cycling. No, not cyclo-cross. We all know that is silly. We’re talking about the new team kit launches. Or rather the ridiculous amount of time spent discussing whether they are a) hotter than a hot thing on a hot tin roof, or b) uglier than an ugly fruit that’s fallen from the ugly tree.
We reached peak hysteria this week with the release of the new Bardiani design. The ever-stylish Italians have thrown out the baby with the bath water, ditched the old orange colourway and gone all in with purple plus a splash of acid green. Rouleur’s very own colour pedant, Ben, describes it as ‘crushed grape’ rather than purple. Others have gone with cyclamen. Either way, you get the picture. It’s kind of lairy. Those familiar with the irritatingly upbeat Barney the dinosaur, as some Twitter wags pointed out, will know the look. Let’s just say you’ll have no problem picking them out in the bunch.
Some cycling websites base entire articles around the new releases. They obviously drive good traffic, despite the fact that nobody reading the features is going to go out and buy the stuff for fear of being labelled a “full pro kit wanker”. (Proviso: I have seen several Movistar jersey wearers in Spain, and an old fella in an alarmingly threadbare full Saunier-Duval outfit at last year’s Tour, but that’s about it.)
The pro riders, meanwhile, are obliged to say something nice about their new look, despite the fact they wouldn’t be seen dead wearing it once retired. Life as a mobile billboard is pretty tiresome, but a small price to pay for making a living from riding a bicycle, so the platitudes roll out.
The exception to this rule is the splendidly gushing Alexis Ryan of Canyon-SRAM: “The 2020 kit radiates like the light of a thousand stars on our power within, as individuals and as a team. We are strong, brave, vivacious role models—the heroes of our story!” Rapha make a lovely jersey, of course, but “a thousand stars on our power within”? Charlotte Brontë, eat your heart out. Alexis also receives a yellow card for unwarranted use of an exclamation mark. Ha!
But we digress. The advantage Rapha’s talented designers have over many professional teams’ kit producers is the blank canvas afforded them by not being restricted to the corporate colours of either Canyon or SRAM. And in this respect, they are very lucky indeed. French insurance company AG2R La Mondiale are sky blue and chocolate brown, so the team they sponsor follows suit.
Nobody in their right mind would wear chocolate brown shorts, yet their unfortunate employees have to suffer the ignominy every time they ride their bikes. Only Gediminas Bagdonas was spared having to look like a Snickers bar on wheels by becoming 2018 Lithuanian national champion, allowing him black shorts to match his white jersey, but he did not repeat the feat this year. Bagdonas has now retired, unable to face donning les pantalons du merde again. Probably.
Hang on. We’ve gone off piste again. This was supposed to be a piece deriding the lengthy discourses on critiquing pro kit designs, and we’ve fallen down the same rabbit hole. Rank hypocrisy. Back to the subject in hand.
So here’s the payoff line. Nobody cares what you (or us for that matter) think about the latest team designs. You don’t have to wear them, so whether it displeases you or not is irrelevant. Focus on something else that isn’t cycling just for a week or two – Rouleur columnist Ned Boulting highly recommends the World Darts Championship on right now – and come back in the New Year refreshed, less jaded and uncynical.
Then, once the Tour Down Under and desert races loom on the horizon, you can return to your social media platform of choice and start slagging them off and banging on about how real racing starts in Belgium in March, and how much better it was in the ‘80s/‘90s /Noughties, and how long socks are an abomination, and, and, and…
Yours faithfully, the Rouleur Grinch