2014 World Tour Team Kit: Blue is the New Black

2014 World Tour team kits

Saxo-Tinkoff unveiled their new yellow and blue jerseys today meaning all the 18 World Tour jerseys are out and pictured in various forms above.

Tinkoff’s yellow and blue design prompted sighs of relief on Twitter after complaints about the trend for black clothing in the pro peloton for 2014, even Oleg Tinkov joined in. Yes OPQS and Trek Factory Racing join Team Sky with predominantly black kit but arguably there are as many team in green as there are in black and besides, blue is by far the most widespread choice.  Are we mistaking a team jersey for a fashion item?

Blue is new black with 13 teams featuring at least a blue stripe and there are six teams with predominantly blue kit: Astana, FDJ.fr, Garmin-Sharp, Lampre-Merida, Movistar and Orica-Greenedge. There’s a perceptive gap here as the green of Greenedge is in my mind and Lampre’s fuscia outshines the blue.

What’s a jersey for?
Much of the criticism of the 2014 team jerseys is along the lines of “Oh, I wouldn’t wear that” but surely this mistakes the purpose of a jersey? A pro team jersey is a billboard, not a fashion item. You wouldn’t hang a framed advert from Orica or Omega Pharma on the wall any more than you’d wear their kit and expect to look sharp. Instead jerseys are designed to get noticed and associate with the sponsor’s identity. Companies have “brand manuals” filled strict guidelines and sports sponsorship has to comply rather than get creative. Even when fashion gets involved the results are restrictive, see the Giro’s maglia rosa where designs by Versace and Paul Smith just manage to make it look like a pink jersey.

Bike industry exception
Perhaps the exception is the bike brand. The rise of factory teams brings a need to reflect the brand and to offer something for weekend warriors. If you ride a Trek then then some neutral team kit will match your bike – plus those pin stripes are slimming. BMC and Trek offer something reasonable. Cervélo owners with a Garmin can buy in too as long as they don’t mind the argyle while Cannondale’s lime green is a brave choice, very visible but wearable?

A wet day in Belgium
For fans and racers alike the real test is whether you can distinguish between the jerseys in poor light. Imagine the scenario: a gloomy early season day, a shaky heli-cam and you’re watching a pixellated internet stream; or you’re tired, your glasses are covered in dirt and there’s traffic blocking your view of the break up the road: is that a Sky, Trek or OPQS rider that’s just attacked the kopgroep?

Hopefully details and accessories come to the rescue, think Trek’s asymmetric black and white shoulders or white helmets for OPQS and black for Sky. As for blue, if you’re confusing Astana with Movistar, visit an optician.

Back in black
When it rains half the peloton goes into stealth ninja mode with black waterproofs. This is actually against the rules:
Even if it’s illegal it doesn’t make sense. Just because it’s wet doesn’t mean a team should lose its visual identity and hide sponsors logos under black gear. And yes, the Gabba and similar garments can be made in any shade under the sun.

Whilst we’re at it…
The sight of new kit is like seeing a flower bud emerging in spring, it signifies the approach of a new season. But 2014 brings another year of pinning numbers on to a jersey. It’s a pre-race ritual but surely belongs to the days of the toestrap and downtube shifting? Why can’t riders have permanent numbers printed onto their jerseys instead of safety pins and numbered sheets?

Cycling race number dossard velo course
Pin and paper lives on

There’s talk of chipping all riders and using geo-location to supply realtime race data and automatic captions but we’ll still need to ID riders and permanent numbers printed on the jerseys is surely an idea to explore?

Taste is personal but judging team kit on its looks can be a mistake. Replica kit sales are small trivial when compared to the billboard function. Meanwhile there’s as much green as there is black and most of the peloton is blue. But as one Twitter correspondent remarked, it’s easier to spot shades of green than shades of black. This will be more complicated when it rains if last year’s all-black waterproofs remain in fashion. Never mind that it’s illegal, spotting team mates and hidden logos are bad enough.

The tests will be how easy it is to differentiate teams from a helicopter shot and if riders can spot their team mates but by then we’ll be talking about the racing rather than who is wearing what.

82 thoughts on “2014 World Tour Team Kit: Blue is the New Black”

  1. Interesting (but obvious) reasoning as to jerseys being functional in terms of conveying the sponsors’ details. In this regard I think most of the jerseys above do that, with some being more visually appealing than others.

    However I’d like to know the thought process (if any) behind the Trek kit! It’s got to be the most peculiar design since Castorama.

  2. The Rapha sky gear was being sold at a discount before christmas. Not clear why, as the usual Rapha sale is after christmas. Perhaps the hoi-polloi who wear Rapha don’t wear team gear. The cyclists I see round my way in leafy west kent are either in Rapha and Castelli or alternatively some combination of day-glo flouro. Very little team wear, which is perhaps why I get looks when out in my flouro vini fantini Giro kit!

    • Others do, for example IAM. I’ve not mentioned the Swiss team as it’s World Tour only above for the sake of being concise but this team seems to make visible and stylish kit possible, helped in large part by a single sponsor.

    • +1. and clearly across the shoulders so TV viewers can tell easily from the Heli-view who is who in a bunch. And I never understood why there aren’t more logos on the backs of riders, as that view is arguably more common than a view from the front…

  3. great point about the safety-pinned numbers! its always particularly amused me seeing the high-tech TT skinsuits with a piece of paper flapping on its safety pins on the back.

    there’s some logistical issues with assigning each rider a number on their jersey for a year when numbers are used to associate team members and leadership within that team, plus the rankings from the previous edition of the race and who knows what other subtle meanings, but really none of that should be necessary. you can identify teams from their kit, team leader as #1 is inconsistently applied and the previous edition ranking is on a team basis, not specific riders which makes it pretty meaningless.

    this ties in nicely with the previous post discussion of the world tour rankings – the riders should get their ranking as their number for the next year, all year. then you can have it permanently printed on their jerseys and it makes it easy for fans to pick their favourite rider from a bunch of others in the same kit (plus other similar kit).

    unranked, new pros and pro-conti/conti riders can get the higher numbers alphabetically or something

    • The system for fixed numbers for all riders would have to mean something a bit more straightforward than 1-600 (or whatever). I think the number would have to be a composite looking something like:

      1 – 6 – 35

      Where the first number designates World Tour, Pro Conti etc. The second number would be team and then the last the rider number within the team which would be at the team’s discretion. It might look a little ungainly but it would make the number more meaningful than, say, basing it on last year’s WT rankings or alphabetical order.

    • Keep in mind that bib numbers are primarily used by the officials to govern the race and results. Media and the public are secondary concerns. There are traditions in how they are assigned.

      In UCI races, bibs are assigned to teams in blocks (1 – 9, 11 – 19, 201 – 209, etc). This is done to help make teams more identifiable (which is useful for race leaders jerseys, and when for whatever reason, jerseys are not visible). Since most races only allow team sizes of 6 – 9 riders, some numbers don’t get assigned; generally the blocks are x1 – xy, where x is the team designation and y is the maximum team size). Bib numbers are restricted to a maximum of 3 digits.

      Yes, it is traditional for the previous edition’s race leader to wear #1 (thus that team get’s the first block), and for the team’s leader to have a suffix of 1 as well; sometimes the team’s Lieutenant gets the suffix of 2).

      Typically the blocks are assigned to teams by their hierarchy within a race (Pro Teams 1st, Pro-Conti 2nd, Conti 3rd, Amateur teams last).

      Bib numbers are provided by the race organizer, not the UCI. Though this could change, bib numbers frequently feature a race sponsor logo; something organizers won’t like to lose with numbers being pre-printed on rider jerseys. For stage races, multiple sets of bib numbers are maintained by the organization & officials, but special bibs numbers (such as most combative and special team GC), are difficult (and expensive) to manage at all but the largest of races.

      This isn’t to say that changing to season long numbers couldn’t work, but there would have to be less than 999 riders (to keep to a max of 3 digits). This works in the Pro & Pro-Conti ranks, but when you through in Conti & Amateur teams (such as in 1.1 races), it doesn’t. Regardless, it would require a change of culture and the dumping of a tradition; often, these are more difficult than the logistics.

    • Next thing people are forgetting, the numbers are also billboards. There, too, usually is some sponsor name one them and the rules clearly state that is has to be kept visible.
      I doubt race organisers would like to lose this income how small or big it might be.

  4. From a practical point of view:
    The numbering could be like in football. Each team has maximum 30 riders, so its from 1-30. In the transfer period new riders could choose from the numbers of the leaving riders. For the viewers / reporters would be easier to identify riders in any race, since one wouldn’t need to memorize new numbers each race. Everyone would know exactly that p.e Lotto 15 is Adam Hansen. (btw it is a great idea having riders names on their jerseys like sky and IAM, the latter even better on the back). In this case the above mentioned rules should be strictly observed.

    And from the ritual:
    Technology is changing rapidly but the culture is adapting slowly. Since in cycling history plays a great role, every change should be carefully studied before implentation. Maybe we should keep the safety pins 🙂

    • Race numbers are not as important to the fans as they are to the internal organisation of the race itself. One particular use is over race radio to communicate to the convoy which riders are in a break or which requires assistance from team car or race doctor, etc. They are also written on the moto blackboard. Radio messages need to be clear and unambiguous. If there were riders in the break that had the same number then this would lead to all sorts of problems.

      Also, when a rider retires from the race they have to remove their number to show they are no longer racing. This would be difficult to achieve with printed number.

      • i’ve been in a race myself and realised the guy next to me had the same number as me – yes it caused some confusion!

        this is just the way things are currently done, not the only way they can be – an example of the historical things that, depending on your point of view, handicap the UCI and/or give the sport its character. there are so many things in the sport that seemingly can’t be changed just because “its how we do it”. i’m not in favour of change for the sake of it but if there is a clear benefit then why not?

        currently numbers are assigned to riders with little actual meaning – i’m just suggesting that they could be assigned with some meaning and also consistency throughout the season.

        without getting into any radical ideas, if the numbering was within a team you could use the 3-letter team codes and put on the moto blackboard that LTB1 was in the break for Griepel which would be much more meaningful to everyone than 121 which last week meant Porte but this week is suddenly Griepel.

        similarly, the idea of using rankings would have meaning on the break board as if you see a low number is in the break you immediately know someone significant is up the road, even if you don’t know who that number is.

        definitely it should be compulsory to have rider names visible on all pro team jerseys

        • Season held IDs would defeat the main function of the race numbers which is to allow the organisers/commissaires to produce the correct result and aid the smooth running of the race (e.g. calling up cars for service). There has to be a manual backup because electronic systems do fail. If you tried working as finish line judge you will appreciate how hard a job it is to record the finish order of group, even harder on a finishing circuit with lapped riders! Adding useless characters would make that job even harder if not impossible. Bear in mind you need two sets of numbers because a ID in the middle of the back is pretty useless most of the time because of the viewing angles of the officials.

          The traditional system is the simplest, most reliable solution – all the riders are in the same boat – and the numbers are also a source of sponsorship revenue for struggling event promoters.

          Changing the system for aesthetic reasons is blinkered and unhelpful. When a tool works well it is elegant and besides think of all those changing room photo opportunities that would disappear.

          • And as an afterthought, the lack of official race number is a pretty good way of spotting the rare nutters who infiltrate a race to ride with the stars. Printed IDs would make this much easier and you’d probably see that kind of interference increase.

          • How would “season held IDs defeat the main function of the race numbers”?

            It doesn’t matter what the number is, or if it’s been allocated today, at the next race or at the start of the season: it’s still a valid number. In fact, it would make it easier as a team need only report that riders: 1, 3, 4, 7, 8 and 9 are attending the race and everyone knows who that is. Same, same if “number 2 needs mechanical/medical assistance” everybody (riders, officials, team, support) knows that “number 2” is John Smith from Team ABC.

            As for infiltration of a race by random people . . . I really don’t think a printed number is going to allow them to hide any better than a glasses/fake-moustache combo.

  5. I always find the debate over which team kt looks the best bizarre. Some people don’t realize that you don’t have to wear pro team kit, in fact it’s better if you don’t.

    Do pro teams make any money from selling there kit in bike shops etc?

      • Garmin/Sharp/Barracuda/Cervelo (etc) sell team kit direct from the team site. I don’t know where the money goes but it seems pretty close the team. They sell bikes there too. I guess you mean that when we see jersey’s in a shop, its the clothing mfr who is making money on it. Never mind internet rip-offs where the money probably goes to organised crime!

  6. I quite like the fact that every road racer, from amateur 4th cat beginner to professional TdF competitor has to pin their number on their jersey before every race. It’s part of bike racing and doesn’t hurt anyone, leave it as it is.

    • Yeah, magnets biiiitch!
      But seriously, I can easily imagine how those little magnets dissapear in crashes and how riders search for them after one, like lost contact lenses.

  7. Well, the jersey thing is about visibility, brand making, and getting people to like you. It’s not black vs blue, but more dark vs visible. Movistar (whose kit I like nevertheless, probably because it doesn’t change much) ranks alongside Sky, Trek and OPQS vs Astana, FDJ, Lotto (the best novelty of the year, at least frontally) or Cannondale. On pinned numbers, I’m all with you, it’s the one retro thing that I really don’t like. But retro jerseys are ever more visible everywhere, and honestly: give me a Bic jersey. simple, memorable, with distinct and visible colours, and it beats anything on the WorldTour of today, either in a pro peloton or in a Sunday grupetta.

  8. Why are there so few comments about safety? I am always shocked by how ‘invisible’ all these cyclists in black are at the weekend! When I go out, I make sure I’m bright and visible. These teams with their insistence on black are being irresponsible, sending out the message that it’s ok to be hard to spot on a bike. As I cyclist myself I take extra care when driving and I’m really worried by some of the invisible cyclists. The pros should be sending out a safe message ‘make yourself visible’ because plenty of drivers will struggle to make you out.

    • I agree , when I out in bad wether I use my yellow gabba or the hi vis sportful commuter jacket which is totally dry even in the baddest weather here in Belgium. The black versions aren’t that visible . I complete the kit with hi vis shoecovers so my moving feet are eyecatchers.

      • I do hope The Pro ranks will drop the stupid Black rain capes this year and have them all “coloured” up in sponsors logo’s. I can NEVER understand these idiots I see out on the roads in gloom ridden British winter days wearing the stealth look is nothing short of a death wish. Just because they have a rear light the size of a matchbox does nothing for the sideways visibility or otherwise.

    • Should the pros wear hi viz whilst they’re at it?

      The pros race on closed roads. Its up to people who buy kit to be responsible for their own decisions as to how and what they wear. Its called individual responsibility.

  9. About the pinned numbers In the sailing world each competitor has his own unique number ig BEL-21 which is my son’s number. everyone can easily find everything about his sailing carreer on the web and when you see a windsurfer on the water with BEL-21 it is easy to identify him. maybe an idea for the futur, these landcode and number can easily be printed on their kit and it wil be easy for the supporters when they can buy a shirt with their favorit’s number printed on it

    • That’s only how it works in windsurfing (and kite racing?)- with boat classes it is the boat’s number that is displayed, not the sailor- though for confusion certain classes (such as the Finn) allow top sailors to have a “personal sail number” that transfers from boat to boat, but strictly within that class. For most classes however a new boat means a new sail number- and only sailots (such as your sun?) competing at high levels (not including all world championships) are required to have an ISAF Sailor ID number (I’ve been to two worlds and don’t have one).

  10. UCI could take a leaf from F1 and assign lifetime numbers for the World Tour etc? either that or could it be based on your previous years ranking in points maybe?

    As for the wearing the Cannondale jersey, I have a Dale and at least one of my jerseys in the team one. Very visible compared to say being a biking nina when wearing sky kit

  11. As Lee mentioned, the nice thing about pinning ur number on pre-race is the consistency of this ritual all the way from cat-4 to pro-team. The permanent no. thing wouldn’t work for amateurs as some doesn’t even have a team/club and it’s financially impossible to get a set every year.

  12. Allocated seaon race numbers is an interesting point – previous dynasties at UCI HQ have worked hard to reduce the influence/control of race organisers and their ability to make money out of bike racing.

    What better way to help establish the brand of the UCI WorldTour (thanks InnerRing), than further erode the rights of the individual race organisers? For WT point scoring events, riders could be wearing their allocated UCI race numbers (just like F1 which we all see as largely a season-long series run in various exotic locations).

    I’m not saying it would be a good thing, but it could be very effective.

  13. Molteni’s an interesting one, a brown jersey promoting a sausage maker. But classic because of Merckx. The Brooklyn jersey’s another classic but the definition varies.

    They’re not classic but Castorma and Mapei represented what could be done with new printing technology and marked the move away from black shorts and plain kit. Maybe Sky’s kit will endure because it’s neutral, a bit like T-Mobile? Euskaltel-Euskadi’s orange kit will endure in the mind and probably Garmin-Sharp with the argyle too.

    • I guess the jersey needs to be around for more than a couple of seasons. Molteni, Peugeot and Brooklyn were around for several years largely unchanged. Columbia/Highroad/HTC changed 4 times in 4 years.

      Is the T-Mobile jersey ‘Neutral’? The pink is pretty garish – though I am a fan of it.

      @ Toe Strap – The Bianchi 2003 one is lovely. Looks like it should be made of wool though.

      Surely, if they’d been around long enough, the Footon Servetto jersey was set to be a classic?!

  14. Personal responsibility vs corporate responsibility? You know the public will buy your kit so you do have a responsibility towards them. This is not the nanny state, this is about the pros being role models for the youngsters. I consider myself considerate towards cyclists when I drive, but have been shaken by the number of stealth cyclists I’ve nearly hit. It is not funny and only serves to paint us all as irresponsible light-jumpers. We have a collective responsibility to dress in a way that indicates we are there and safe.

  15. Wow – lots of comments on team kit! I liked your bit about printing permanent numbers on individual rider jerseys. They do it in almost every other sport, why not cycling? Would be so easy if you knew that number 3 in Team Sky was Richie Port all year long, or that 12 in BMC was Tejay VG, or whatever. Put the numbers on the shoulders/upper arms, maybe?

    How much more does that cost a team to do that?

  16. Races have switched to timing chips anyway. It’s how they get those immediate splits up when a rider passes a timing arch.

    Are the commentators given Number = Name sheets for their voice-over work?

    IMHO, last names should be screened on the back of the shorts. Maybe even somewhere along the side panel. I know that won’t go over well for many. Just an opinion.

    • They all have a list, the starting list where each number is associated with a rider is available. I know some even have boxes with index cards so they can easily access informations about the corresponding rider.

    • Timing chips only provide auxiliary info. The order of finish (and times) are still officially determined by the photo finish system at the finish line.

      Timing chips are mostly used to keep track of riders. Order of finish is determined by the edge of the front tire crossing the plane of the finish line. Since timing chips can be placed on different parts of the bike or body, they cannot be used alone in determining finish results. Also, bikes get changed more within races than do jerseys.

  17. Sure the team kits are billboards..but do you sell more of whatever it is with a ghastly billboard that nobody wants to look at vs a kit that folks like the look of enough to buy a replica of it? I’ve always wondered about what these things look like when they’re on a rider who is on a bike in the racing position? Too often it seems whoever designed the kit failed to consider this, with backwards lettering, upside-down logos or kits that are unidentifiable from a helicopter shot on TV. With so many new clothing sponsors jumping in to replace the old standards, this seems to happen more. The old players know from experience what’s going to work and one hopes they give advice to the corporate folks who hire the artsy designers to create their look – but it seems that happens less and less these days?

    • But it’s actually the team managers who are the primary kit designers, aren’ t they? I mean, even Fignon took pride in both the Système U and Castorama designs, as if he’d drawn them with some crayons at home. And the Echavarri/Unzue duo not only takes credit for all his teams’ kit designs ever since the Reynolds days, but for the idea of having the sponsors’ logo on the side of the jersey.

      • It all depends on the team. Some contract to independent graphic artists (or artists within the clothing supplier), and give them guidance. The teams/sponsors are then presented with multiple options; with added feedback, a final kit is released.

  18. As I do frequently, I agree with Larry T.

    Hire an artist for a day to coordinate a design with continuity . Then perhaps the riders will “feel better” maybe that is why Wiggo threw his bike? He had to wear all black all the time.

    La Vie Claire was the last “cool” kit

  19. A lot of comments regarding kit design! inrng.com collaboration with Vogue/GQ/?!

    If my kids ask me how a certain food tastes I reply, “Each has their own taste!”
    Same for artwork or music. Each their own taste.

    Thus, it was amusing in a boring kind-of-way to read comments on facebook and twitter about the release of new kit…thousands of comments either loving or hating the new designs. Was wondering if there were prizes for the most impressive love or hate comment (“His hate comment made me want to hang myself”/”This love comment made me want to spoil myself and go shopping”)!

    I do agree about stealth versus visibility. It tends to be an Italian thing to go for loud colours, and I like it! I think it is cool how one Italian team has chosen to be even more fluo this season, almost like they are sticking a middle finger at all the other teams who chose to be staid and boring!

    Much better for us who do not ride on closed roads, especially during the dark Fall/Winter days. I have colourful gear for that time of the year as I often train alone and the last thing on my to-do-list is a car getting medieval on my ass!
    For racing, however, I chose plain black or white as I prefer to be as low-profile as possible (element of surprise is a ninja-thing)!

  20. Hey look: AG2R, FDJ, Caisse d’Epargne, Liberty Seguros, TIAA-CREF, UNISA, Rabobank, Skil-Shimano, Omega Pharma-Quickstep, Phonak, Tinkoff Credit Systems, Barloworld, Liquigas, Lampre, Saxo-Bank, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Omega Pharma-Lotto, and Team CSC-Tinkoff! Glad to see they’re all still around.

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