The cycling jersey serves two functions. First, it needs to be aerodynamic and breathable, so that the cyclist can gain the greatest scientific advantage against the wind and head. But possibly more importanly, it serves as a wearable billboard to promote those brands that support the team wearing the jersey. Say, a certain mail service. Or a brand of GPS. Seemingly every inch of the jersey is reserved for any sponsor that will pay for their logo to appear. Think…NASCAR.
But as I was watching a race from Belgium last weekend, something odd caught my eye. Team Sky is new to the peloton. Financed by Rupert Murdoch and promoting his English (the country, not the language) satellite news channel, there’s plenty of money to go around without having to search for too many additional sponsors. So instead of slapping a secondary sponsor along the side of the jersey, they decided to do something different.
Every rider on Team Sky has their name and their national flag on the side of their jersey. So Juan Antonio Flecha (right) gets to ride with his name and a Spansih flag on his kit. And when Kiwi Greg Henderson won in the team first race, it was his name as well as that of the sponsor’s that was on display atop the podium.
I thought the Sky had come up with something uniquely individual for their team’s riders, until on the very next day, I saw a rider from American Team HTC-Columbia celebrating his victory. On display on the back of his jersey (left) was his name, (Bernard) Eisel and an Austrian flag. Not a very Yankee thing to do. Further research (err…Googling) proved that this practice went back to last year, as evidenced by Mark Cavendish’s celebrating of a Tour de France stage win with teammate George Hincapie, back when the team was known as Columbia-HTC.
Yet while other teams have yet to jump on board as far as they jersey goes, another team employs the same practice on the bicycle itself. Take a look at the seatstay–the diagonal tube between the seat and the rear wheel–and you’ll see a Belgian flag and the name “Boonen” (right.) That would be Tom Boonen, Belgian national champion, aboard his Team Quickstep Eddy Merckx ride.
I hope I’ve enlightened a few of you with this post, or at the very least held your interest. I hope to use this blog as a space to pass along news, make some pointed observations, and gather information about the form of professional cycling, if not the function.