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January is when pro teams roll out their new kit. And every new season, teams roll out fresh designs and logos in what’s a sometimes spotty balance between function, marketing, and graphic design.
Most cycling jerseys consistently underwhelm. There have been a few classic jerseys over the decades that delivered both function — serving as an advertising billboard for sponsors — and form. Think the classic Peugeot-Michelin jerseys.
Others are so whacky for their time that they rise above the crowd. The Mapei mishmash of colors? Fugly, yes, but it stood out. Team Z, with its super-hero emblazoned look, was perfect for Greg LeMond’s third and final Tour de France victory in 1990. Carrerra’s faux jeans? No thanks.
Most jerseys, unfortunately, are stuck-in-the-middle bland. A little blue here, a red splash on the sleeve, and maybe a line or two down the middle, squeeze in all the sponsor names, and — boom! — you have a pro team jersey.
There’s not much in the way of new kit designs so far in 2021 that truly stands out.
One can imagine it’s an unsavory task for graphic designers to balance the interests of good taste and sponsor demands, which pay to have their names literally stitched into the fabric of the team.
Sponsors also come packed with their own trademarks, color schemes, and logos that they wholly expect to be displayed on a jersey. After all, that’s a very big reason why they’re ponying up the money. It’s also rare that a team has a singular sponsor that allows for clean, graphically appealing lines. Ineos Grenadiers and Movistar both have embraced a cleaner, more impactful look.
And then there’s Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec.
The long-running Italian ProTeam has embraced the “squeeze it all in” look to such a degree that the jersey delivers its own unique charm.
The team unveiled its new 2021 kit, and just as everyone expected, it’s packed to the gills. There are more than a dozen sponsors are squeezed onto the jersey, with every inch of the jersey and bibs used for maximum exposure.
Longtime manager Gianni Savio takes pride in his jersey, which he often compares to a newspaper’s front page. Indeed, there is room for a lot of news on a jersey, and the team utilizes just about every inch of column space on the kit to squeeze in each and every backer. No matter how small their contribution, a sponsor will see their name in the peloton.
Of course, many second and third-tier teams embrace this car-sticker approach to team jerseys out of necessity. Italy’s other ProTeam squads — Vini Zabù-Brado-KTM and Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè — also see their kits plastered with names. Operating budgets on these teams are a fraction of the top WorldTour teams, so every backer no matter how small proves critical to the operation of the team. Each deserves their spot in the sun.
These mishmash jerseys remind me more of old-school local bike clubs than a polished, all-business image of the WorldTour. The smaller teams are the lifeline between the WorldTour and the rest of the peloton. Anything that helps to keep them in the sport, including the stitched-together look for their kits, should be embraced by fans.
The variety of kits and looks in the bunch simply reflects the disparate and sometimes unruly mix of teams, budgets, and sponsors in the international peloton.
Some jerseys deliver a punch, others utterly flop. Everyone has their personal favorites. The good thing is, by next January, there will be another palette to choose from.