This June, I plan on writing a series of posts focusing on National Championships and the jerseys that the winners get to wear during their reign. But last Sunday, as the head of the Paris-Roubaix peloton was being led by no less than a trio of national champions, the case of the current Italian Champion, Filippo Pozzato, got a bit, well, curiouser, and like West Virginia or the Oakland A’s, it seemed as Italy added another color to its traditional red, white and green.
On the surface, it would appear Pozzato’s black kit was a specially designed tribute to Franco Ballerini, the coach of the Italian national team who was killed in a rally crash earlier this year. Ballerini was a two-time winner of Paris-Roubaix and the race organization was honoring him with a prize in his name going to the top Italian finisher. But beneath the surface, this isn’t the first redesign of the Italian jersey for Pozzato. In fact, it’s not the first time he’s broken out the black, either.
Pozzato won the Italian Road Race Championship last June–on a weekend when national championship races are held throughout Europe–affording him the privilege of wearing the Tricolore for the next year. Traditionally, the Italian Champion wears a jersey that depicts the Italian flag, one-third each red, white and green.
Pozzato, however, began racing last season for the Russian-based Team Katyusha, whose jersey features a silhouette of Moscow’s Skyline. The team used that skyline as the basis for the Russian Championship jersey being worn by Pozzato’s teammate, Sergei Ivanov. When Pozzato won his country’s championship, the team attempted to do the same. The Italian Federation said “negazione!”
Thus began the saga of Pozzato’s Italian attire, including the rejected Kremlin design, a short-lived vertical design and more conservative approach, all within the span of a the three-week Tour de France.
This year, Pozzato’s kit remained largely as it had at the end of last season, although the team was able to sneak the skyline detail onto the shorts. However, when he raced in an off-season charity Cyclo-cross event, he broke out a special black design for reasons largely unknown (although I can’t imagine anybody wants to trudge through the mud and the cold in white spandex.) The black jersey was thought to be a one-hit wonder like Katyusha’s first attempt until last Sunday.
UPDATE – Pozzato was back in white at yesterday’s Amstel Gold Race.