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The making of a champion

As Peter Sagan updates his wardrobe, we look at the journey of the rainbow stripes.

World Champs jersey
Sam Challis
2 Dec 2015

Depending on your perspective, the end of the Road Race World Championships was just the start. When Peter Sagan rolled over the line in Richmond in September with his arms spread lazily and a grin on his face, his race was done. But for Tinkoff-Saxo’s kit manufacturer, Sportful, the race was just beginning. 

‘I’d love to tell you some story about us watching the World Champs, running back to the office and working feverishly all night,’ says Glen McKibben, Sportful’s brand manager. ‘But the UCI guidelines are pretty strict about what we can and can’t do, so it was a smooth process and was all finished rather quickly.’

It took Sportful less than three days to produce a prototype jersey that was ready to send off to the UCI, cycling’s governing body, for approval. As Sagan was straight off to race in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, the design was first printed onto the well-ventilated BodyFit Pro Race jersey. ‘Within eight days we had a finished jersey for Sagan to wear. But two days after that he had five or six, and it was easy from there to make a lot – Sagan wanted to give jerseys to people who have helped him along the way,’ McKibben says.

Cyclist has managed to get hold of one of Sagan’s jerseys, but for Sportful to sell replica jerseys to the public, it needs to pay royalties to the UCI and Santini, which produces the podium jersey for the World Championships. 

McKibben explains the impact a World Champion riding in its kit has on the brand: ‘I think it is both very satisfying and something we are very proud of. It’s not to say we won Sagan the jersey but I think it gives us a way to spotlight a lot of the work we’ve done with the Tinkoff-Saxo team over the last few years, and more importantly all the work we’ve been doing with all our pro riders over the last 40 years.’

The UCI dedicates five pages of its rulebook to the World Champion’s jersey, indicating how and when it can be worn, and what adaptations a clothing supplier can make to it. Every logo needs to be positioned exactly, and there are even regulations dictating what shorts can be worn with the jersey. 

‘We’re looking for a little bit of leeway. We want black shorts with the rainbow bands on, but need to check their compliance with the UCI,’ says McKibben. If Sportful can’t get its shorts approved, Sagan will have to stick with the white ones he wore in Abu Dhabi. White shorts are a bad look on most riders, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Sagan.

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