The first Pro Team products were developed back in 2010 to meet the demands of elite-level road riders. Redefining the cut, fabric and construction of high-performance race apparel, a rigorous design and development process involving professional riders helped create a new breed of lightweight, streamlined, comfortable and robust racewear.
The Pro Team collection sees innovative performance fabrics exclusive to Rapha combined with a pared-back Rapha aesthetic and Pro Team products now form the basis of Team Sky’s core race apparel. Working with Team Sky provides unique and unrivalled feedback, allowing Rapha to develop and deliver the highest standard of race kit in the world.
Like the clean and streamlined shape of a modern racing bike, the Pro Team jersey has been built for speed, comfort and absolute performance. The aero cut, with low-profile collar and longer length sleeves, is allied to minimal seam use and soft mesh side panels and cuffs.
A VISLON® zip, along with angled pockets and gripper in the hem, all provide superb functionality in race conditions. High-wicking front, arm and back panels are treated with coldblack® technology to reflect the sun’s heat and keep you as cool as possible. There’s also a designated label on which to write a rider’s ID, ensuring the correct jersey comes back from the laundry.
Developed in consultation with Team Sky riders during the 2013 season, the design of the new Pro Team Mitts echoes the ‘robust simplicity’ underpinning Rapha’s approach to the entire Pro Team collection. Good race mitts allow for control and sensitivity on the bars, brakes and shifters, plus easy manipulation of pockets and bottles.
Hence why this very simplified design has no padding; rather, just perforated synthetic leather for protection and grip on the palms. The backs are made from a lightweight and breathable mesh, while the fronts are constructed with a durable, rigid nylon mesh. The thumb wipes use a soft towelling material for the face, and the seams are reinforced for maximum durability.
“You’ll never regret your purchase.”– Red Kite Prayer
Designed for high-tempo training and elite-level racing, these are premium shorts for tough riding. Designed and tested in collaboration with professional racers and experienced road riders, the latest generation uses an award-winning Cytech pad, as found in Rapha’s Classic Bib Shorts. The shorts’ panels are cut from a proprietary fabric milled in Italy, that is both lightweight and supportive. This fabric is also treated with coldblack® technology to reflect the sun’s heat. The bib sections use a breathable mesh and the stitching is designed for optimum comfort.
Socks are extremely important to the discerning rider. These socks combine breathability and durability, using a robust yarn in and the toe and heel, combined with an ultra-wicking fibre on the footbed which is soft and lightweight. The cuff is made from a hard-wearing nylon, which is also colourfast, ensuring the socks look fresher for longer. Perhaps most importantly, the Pro Team Socks are available in two lengths, depending how you like to style things.
“It’s stuff like this, the real attention to detail, that makes it so much easier for us as riders.”– Ben Swift Team Sky
The Wet Bag is another piece developed specifically for Team Sky during the 2013 season. Designed to make every trip to the team car for kit changes as efficient and painless as possible, each rider has two wet bags; one in the first team car, one in the second.
The Wet Bag has six, zipped compartments, room enough for every piece of kit potentially needed for the race, including jerseys, waterproofs, leg and arm warmers, spare shoes and helmet and, once finished, wet apparel. Each of the two Team Sky cars holds eight Wet Bags, each identified in turn with the respective rider’s name in blue embroidery.
This undervest is the most lightweight and breathable layer in the Rapha emporium. Using high-stretch Lycra side panels and a super-fine mesh on the front and back, the exceptional moisture transfer and breathability will keep you comfortable for more than six hours of riding. The neckline and armholes are bound for a perfect fit, and the base layer is cut to complement aggressive bike positions. There’s also an anti-bacterial treatment used to counteract the odour that can afflict lesser man-made fibres and flatlock seams ensure you’ll barely notice this base layer once you move out. Like the Pro Team Jersey, there’s also a label for a rider’s ID or name.
Allan Iacuone, better known as Alby, is a veteran racer who won the Australian National Road Race back in 1994. Alby retired from professional racing in 2003 but rekindled his passion to race a bike in 2011, this time in cyclocross. In 2013, he won the Australian national cyclocross championship at the age of 40. In January this year, the 20th anniversary of Alby's 1994 Nationals win, he decided to have one last crack on the road.
Photos: Sarah Enticknap and Australian Physiotherapy Association
Looking back on Nationals this year, you see the podium finishers: Gerrans, Porte, Evans. When you heard your name being chanted, did you expect that?
I expected maybe a few people cheering me but not to that level. So that was awesome. It definitely helped me get up the hill that bit quicker. As you say there were some really big hitters out there, big names like Simon Clarke, Adam Hansen. I haven’t raced properly for 10 years – and there’s people shouting out my name? I was having a bit of a chuckle to myself really, having a good time sitting on the back of the break. I remember racing that circuit back in 03 and 04 and it wasn’t that big at all, maybe a few hundred people on the hill.
How did your preparation this year compare with your training back in 1994?
It was a completely different mindset back then. I was a full-time bike rider starting out on a scholarship with Victoria Institute of Sport; living, eating and breathing cycling. I was just a kid. These days, I’m lucky enough to have my own coaching business. And that allows me to go out riding and just be fit, you know? So when I decided to go for the Nationals I realised I had a cut-off point. I needed at least six weeks to get myself in condition to at least get around and not be disgraced, or get popped on the first few laps.
So I did a bit of motor pacing and just changed things around. I also did some extra sessions for myself, instead of with my clients. I increased my distances, the intensity, those kinds of things. But back then I was already in good condition, so I thought about it differently. I was under no illusion about how I was going to go this year, with the calibre of rider I’d be racing against and the speed of the race. You always want a good result but I was just there to enjoy the atmosphere and the buzz of the day really.
A lot of people have remarked on your technique and how good you look on a bike. At what stage should you start thinking about that?
Technique and style should be thought about from the beginning. Hopefully, you’ll get set up well on a bike; after that, everyone’s different in the way they ride and you have to find that out yourself. You can’t just emulate the way Contador rides. You’ve got to find what works for you. Having been set up properly will allow you to be more efficient, having all those muscles working properly.
It doesn’t come easy. I have issues with strength in my glutes and a lot of bike riders do, so they do a lot of core stability work to help compensate. Technique is something you have to work on, whether you’ve been riding from an early age or you’re starting later in life. Try and do stuff off the bike to help you be stronger on it. As for the skill base, that’s another thing you have to practise. And that comes from riding and racing your bike as much as you can.
More recently, has your cross riding helped with your skill base?
Definitely. I think cyclocross is a sport that young kids should really get into. Australia has a big history on the track and I think that’s a great area for new people and youngsters to learn those skills, how to pedal and how to sit on a wheel. But cross has taught me a lot in the last two or three years. And I’m still learning. Falling off my cross bike happens almost daily.
Given your reputation for technical and tactical excellence, in hindsight would you have done anything differently at the Nationals?
Racecraft is a big thing. You can train all you want out on the road or on the ergo, do all the numbers and get good power and all the right heart rates, but learning how to race is something else again. There’s guys that have been racing for years that have amazing ability to read a race, cunning and crafty riders who think about the sport a lot and enjoy racing.
With the Nationals I knew the course, and had raced there before. There were some really good strong local riders but people get lost in the bunch. So, after years of racing, you get to know where to be, it becomes second nature after doing it a lot. But at the same time, there’s some really smart guys out there that have got a real knack and natural feel for how to read a race.
What else has changed significantly since 1994?
Thinking back and talking about carbon bikes now, bikes coming straight out the box, and being very light. But the Continental Passoni I ride, which is handbuilt and which I raced in the Nationals – it’s like the bike I raced back in 1994 which was also handbuilt (although it might have been two kilos heavier, steel or whatever it was) but very similar in how it was built. I think everybody at Nationals this year was on a carbon bike. Back in ‘94 I had these big heavy Shamal wheels which I thought were the best wheels in the world, super-fast but they took about a kilometre to get rolling. They weighed about a kilo and-a-half each. So the bikes have definitely changed, a lot lighter, a lot more responsive.
But it was special riding the Passoni. I’d have to say it was one of the best bikes I’ve ridden for feel and comfort. Not the lightest bike, but it wasn’t intended to be the lightest bike. It just handles beautifully. I was quite happy to jump on it and race it. People buy bikes straight off the shelf. Back in ‘94 there was a lot more tinkering that went on, you’d bought parts here and there. You were always changing things. But yeah, I like the Passoni.
On lap 16 you looked like you were digging pretty deep – was that as deep as you’ve gone?
I wouldn’t say it’s as deep as I’ve ever gone. But that lap 16 was definitely the hardest one, the deepest I went at Nationals. Obviously that one sticks out as it happened pretty recently. As a bike rider you push yourself pretty deep, in many races. I’ve have tonnes of experiences like that. Even when things are going well you push yourself, it should never be easy.