At the beginning of this year’s Giro d’Italia, EF Education First made waves with its Rapha X Palace collaboration. Fans have almost universally given these kits the tick of approval, even inspiring Belgian graphic designer Stijn Dossche to provide the entire WorldTour peloton makeover in a Twitter thread that has gone viral. However, the UCI didn’t agree, slapping the American team with a 4,500CHF fine for wearing an unregistered kit, which, beyond all of the press it has earned the team, may have been chosen in part to alleviate the Maillot Jaune/Jumbo-Vismo camouflage at the Tour de France.
While national champion and leader jerseys are registered, there are plenty of non-standard bits of kit rolling around in the professional peloton. Whether it’s helmets and sunglasses colour-coordinated with leaders’ jerseys or custom-painted shoes and head units, riders (or more than likely the brands who provide their gear) will take any opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
The rolling service course that teams bring to WorldTour races is impressive. In fact, between the wheelsets, replacements parts and tools, every team is also prepared with a few lids in the respective jersey colours for riders they expect to see leading a category — hence why you didn’t see Peter Sagan fully embrace the blue hue of the Maglia Azzurra when he held the jersey on Stage 3 but has since moved onto his best impression of a purple people eater in this year’s Maglia Ciclamino. That said, some teams seem to come with a full wardrobe of kits in the event one of their riders manages to bag a particular jersey.
Occasionally we see riders with custom painted helmets other than as a part of National Champion kits, though the iconic Red Bull (or insert other energy drink sponsor) lids have yet to permeate the WorldTour peloton, despite a select few road pros such as Wout Van Aert and Chloe Dygert earning their wings.
Parts and accessories
Every rider has different feet, and just because a team has a shoe sponsor, it doesn’t mean they will work for the said rider. With that, we have seen everything from lycra shoe covers that look like the sponsor correct kicks, to riders slicing up shoes to make them fit their feet. Some brands will even go as far as making one-off custom boots for specific riders to keep them sponsor correct.
Shoes have proved to be an interesting pace for riders to express themselves. Beyond just the multi-coloured Boa dials that have become commonplace, Geoffrey Bouchard’s custom-painted Mavic Comete Ultimate II shoes are the most eye-catching we have seen in this year’s Giro.
Beyond EF Pro Cycling’s Palace-inspired crazy Cannondales, it seems like the wildly customised bikes from only a few seasons ago have mostly gone out of fashion this year — even Peter Sagan is riding a rather stealth-looking black bike.
It wouldn’t be a Grand Tour without GC contenders on specially painted bikes, but for this year’s Giro, it appears Ineos is the only team to rush out a pink bike for Filippo Ganna when he had the jersey, but even that was just a stripe. The exception to the rule was Gold time trial bike Ganna rode on stage won, but we will concede that’s not exactly apples to apples given he’d just won the World Championship, and it was also the first stage. Only time will tell if we will see someone go full flamingo before the end of the race.