on the longest day of last spring's visit to the rapha retreat in provence, the very day poor visibility prevented us from riding up the ventoux, rapha's ben lieberson, accompanied by another couple of stalwarts, rode from le grand banc to the designated meeting place where the rest of the shy and retiring arrived in the jaguars. he then covered the next 120km in fairly short order, and opted to ride back, in the rain, to le grand banc, while i was most grateful to be offered a seat in the mini-bus, a large lemon tart and several gallons of recovery drink. at that particular point, i recall mentioning that i wanted to be ben lieberson when i grow up.
i wasn't alone in expressing that sentiment.
but on an entirely different and far less athletic level, i'd also like to be herbie sykes when i grow up. the author of the eagle of the canavese has been not only a welcome contributor to rouleur magazine but a regular writer for procycling, most often in matters of historical interest. to accompany rapha's release of three distinct trade team jerseys as part of their 2014 spring/summer catalogue, herbie contributed an essay on merckx's closely fought victory in the 1974 giro d'italia. he has a writing style that almost places the historical into the vernacular, in this case making the greatest show on earth seem as if it happened only yesterday.
those are literary abilities that i wish i possessed.
however, rapha's one day online showing of the greatest show on earth movie, for those who may have been slightly confused as to why, was almost a subliminal method of introducing the three trade team jerseys that form a core part of their spring/summer catalogue. and though i'm scared to death of generating unjustified hyperbole, i honestly figure these may be the finest sportwool jerseys ever to break free from imperial works. i'm not clever enough to understand the significance of the embroidered lettering that takes the place of molteni, bianchi or scic, but please note that i said embroidered on all three jerseys, the lettering on front and sleeves is beautifully rendered in thread rather than screenprinted.
i have, along the years, owned several items of bicycle trinketry that has posed the question as to whether it ought to be hung on the bicycle or framed and placed on the lounge wall. these jerseys ask the very same question; should i match them with armwarmers and wear them in all their finery, or have mark at islay studios frame them for me and hang them on the wall?
the detailing is quite marvellous; inside the collar of each starting with the merckx edition, is the time taken to complete the course of the 57th podio corsa (113hours, 8 minutes and 13 seconds) with each of the others offering the time gap to baronchelli (12 seconds) and gimondi (33 seconds). on the back of each jersey is a 57 podio corsa graphic and on the middle of the three pockets respectively, the race numbers for merckx, baronchelli and gimondi. as i have found with each and every jersey from perren street, the fit is immaculate. these jerseys are the perfect example of what it is rapha does best; beautifully made and finished in a style that you'll be happy to wear for as long as you can ride a bike or stave off that middle-age spread when or if it arrives.
rapha's sponsorship of its own continental team over the past number of years has made it necessary to place sportwool on the race back burner, if only because dye sublimation printing is far more immediate when it comes to accommodating sponsors and a quick turnround. it's a situation that has been accelerated with the team sky partnership. consider that sky added 21st century fox just prior to last year's tour de france, and how long that would have taken in sportwool. consider that in embroidery terms, and there's no way it would have happened before yorkshire this coming july.
however, for the majority of us, sportwool offers multiple benefits over the flimsier pro-team jerseys, not least of which is longevity (i still have one of the original pink mortirolo jerseys from around eight years ago, and it still looks as if it was taken from the packet only yesterday.) though they offer dark and light colours across all three, they wash well without colour contaminating each other and still look every bit as fresh and stylish on the next ride.
the quarter zip is safely enclosed in a zip garage at the collar, and those three rear pockets (oddly, the outer two are not scalloped as has become common on rapha's classic jerseys) are accompanied by a fourth vertically zipped security pocket on the right. in addition, the hem features an adjustable drawstring to ensure an impeccable fit over my bib threequarters.
though i have mixed feeling over the wearing of team kit ( i believe reviewing said kit is an allowable exception), i can see no such objection being levelled at any of these three. in fact, the clever variations on the originals offer a quaint degree of authenticity that can only be said to be underlined by the quality of the embroidery. i'd respectfully suggest that you grab at least one of these before they're gone, because you might just regret it when they're showing as out of stock. i've always wished i'd bought one of the jerseys issued to commemorate the tour in london.
however, "tonight matthew, i'm going to be eddy merckx and felice gimondi"
the sportwool rapha trade team jerseys are available in three designs in xs to xxl at a price of £140 each.
monday 10 march 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................