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Forget modernity, just buy your cycling jerseys from eBay

In-depth
16 Jun 2020
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Words: Joe Robinson

Friday nights have taken a turn for me in lockdown. Previously, they were simple. It was one of three options, like clockwork. Option 1: go to the cinema and for a Nandos dinner with my other half. Option 2: go to the pub after work for a few swift ones. Option 3: go ‘out out’ as Mickey Flanagan puts it so eloquently. The latter has become rarer as I further grow into adulthood, but it is always a healthy mix of the three.

That was until a global pandemic grabbed us by the scruff of the neck, social lockdown took hold and Friday nights suddenly became a mix of watching Gogglebox and ordering takeaways. I needed something else to occupy my time, provide me with a hobby, stave off the boredom. Turns out what I needed - and all any cycling fan needs, for that matter - was to buy some retro cycling jerseys from eBay.

It all started in search of a Ceramiche Arisotrea jersey, well jumper to be precise. After watching the 30:30 Lance Armstrong ESPN documentary last month, I was left with one lasting thought: I really want that purple Fila jumper Michele Ferrari wore.

Obviously, I was never going to find it. I tried, nonetheless, but ultimately failed. The search saw me stumble upon a 1993 team jersey from the Italian team. The red and yellow pattern reminding me of Fruit Salad penny sweets. A jersey made famous by a young Bjarne Riis, who I’ve come to realise looked remarkably like a not-so-young Kelsey Grammer.

The description was promising. ‘Genuine original Nalini Polyester Italian Cycling Jersey - Zip neck - Short sleeves - Elasticated hem - Rear pocket. Condition: Excellent - new old stock’. I took a punt, it’s since arrived, it paid off and some.

Then came the bidding war for a 1995 Motorola team jersey, one of the most iconic looks of the modern era. The red and blue combination graced by Lance Armstrong and Sean Yates. I told myself I wouldn’t bid over £30. I bought it for £35. The post and packaging was an extra fiver. That was posted on Monday, another certified bargain.

Then came the Team Telekom jersey. What I really wanted was the pink gilet from the 1999 season but I just couldn't trust the lack of information provided by the seller. Gutted is an understatement. For me, cycling kits peaked with Telekom’s 2000 get-up, reflective Adidas stripes and all.

An £8 Telekom jersey from the 2000 season was what I eventually settled for. It’s quite clearly a replica, but for £8, who’s complaining?

After paying less than a tenner to look like Jan Ullrich, my addiction began to take hold. I was on a roll, fresh from back-to-back-to-back bidding victories. I’d got a taste for it, I saw myself become a collector, like that Lee ‘Hollywood’ Turner guy on Instagram.

I really had to pull on the brakes from just buying more. There was the extra-large US Postal skinsuit that I had visions of wearing at the local Q10/27 on a Wednesday night and a wool Renault-Elf jersey that I’d have happily worn to the shops. I just couldn’t justify the price tag, but only just.

I then stumbled upon Alexander Kristoff's complete Norweigian team kit from his home Bergen World Championships in 2017. The very Diadora skinsuit that he raced to a combative silver behind Peter Sagan - or at least that's what the seller was claiming.

You could also pick up the matching long sleeve jersey and rain jacket, all in that clean red design with its blue and white stripe cutting across the chest. I had visions of myself rolling around dressed like the burly Norseman, helmet slightly wonky, winning headwind sprints at the end of 250km races. The card details were practically tapped out but then I realised Kristoff takes a medium and a noticeably ‘small’ medium at that.

A sobering reminder that despite being one of the peloton’s ‘big men’, often mocked for carrying excess timber, Kristoff is still a tiny man in relation to the average human being.

The same seller is also still trying to shift a set of Bont Riot cycling shoes that he has gone all Bob Ross on, custom painting them into a homage to American rock band Linkin Park. Now, I’m not a massive fan of the band, but I cannot say I wasn’t tempted by them. They are a ‘one-off’ after all.

I suddenly realised the treasure trove eBay can be and how much of a thrill can be provided by winning the bid on a really old sports jersey that has long belonged to someone else.

A word to the wise, however: the only issue with buying these relics is the smell. It’s not a bad odour, per se. It’s certainly not the distinctive smell of BO on modern polyester sportswear, nor is it the whiff of a smoker’s home or even the pungent pong of damp dog.

It’s a distinctive smell that I’d label ‘old’. When things age, they pick up a smell that acts as provenance for their authenticity. And no matter the strength of your detergent, it’s a smell that cannot be shifted. You can mask it with all the Lynx Africa in the world but it’ll linger around longer than Davide Rebellin in the professional peloton.

But it’s enough to put up with. Because I’ve realised in my new hobby, that yeah, performance is good. And a new £120 jersey may make your shoulders seven watts faster at 40kmk. But when your club riding resumes and you can chew the fat over some coffee and cake again, what will you be more proud to wear? That plain old piece of modernity or that polyester homage to Rolf Jarmann?

Just avoid open flames.