Words: Joe Hall | Date:
Offering timeless style in distinctive colours, the Rapha Club Jersey has become something of a classic in its own right since it was first launched in 2006. The three latest editions of the Club Jersey, for Spring Summer 2014, have been inspired by three of the great one-day races of Italian cycling: Milan-Sanremo, the sprinter’s favourite; the falling leaves of Il Lombardia; and the sun-bleached parcours of the Strade Bianche. Here, we take a brief look at the three classic races that led to the creation of this trio of quintessentially Rapha jerseys.
Club Jersey One – La Primavera
Despite its reputation as the sprinter’s classic, this is a race that doesn’t let the sprinters have it all their own way. There are, in fact, some significant bumps in the road. Historically, the Passo del Turchino was the principal obstacle, at least until it was supplanted, in 1960, by the Poggio, the climb with which, for many of the tifosi, the race is now synonymous. At 300km, Milan-Sanremo is the longest of cycling’s one-day Monuments and provides a stern test of endurance early in the season. Which is perhaps why it comes as no surprise that Eddy Merckx holds the record for winning the race; in the years since Lucien Petit-Breton won the first edition, in 1907, the Cannibal has bagged the title seven times. More recently, Erik Zabel has notched four victories at the race known as La Primavera, the Spring Classic. This is a race that not only anticipates the coming changes in the seasons but also represents two very different faces of Italy’s national identity. For as well as leaving the cool climes of Milan for the warmer reaches of the Ligurian coast, it also transports riders from the metropolitan aloofness of Milan, home to many of the world’s leading couture fashion houses, to a part of the country renowned for its rural simplicity and uncomplicated generosity of spirit.
Club Jersey Two – Race of the Falling Leaves
Dubbed ‘the climber’s classic’, the sister race to La Primavera predates its sibling by two years. The inaugural edition, run in 1905 under the banner of Milan-Milan, was won by the notorious Giovanni Gerbi, nicknamed Il Diavolo Rosso (the Red Devil) on account of both his blood-red jerseys and impish tactics. Il Lombardia, the ‘Race of the Falling Leaves’, was first conceived as an autumnal event, the curtain call for the European racing season. In a more global cycling era, the date of the race has proved something of a moveable feast, a principal that also applies to the start and finish cities, which rotate like a fairground carousel. It’s a list that includes Bergamo, Monza and Varese but one feature of the race that has been a constant is Lake Como, playground of the stars and which lies in the shadow of another staple of the race, the famous climb of the Madonna del Ghisallo, home to a shrine dedicated to cyclists.
Club Jersey Three – Strade Bianche
The newest arrival among Italy’s classic races (the inaugural edition took place as recently as 2007), the 190km Strade Bianche takes riders into the spectacular countryside around Siena. The route winds its way through the Tuscan landscape and the name of the race translates as ‘white roads’, taken from the sections of sun-bleached gravel or sterrato that form 70km of the route. It is a mark of the success of the Strade Bianche that even seasoned race fans are often surprised to learn how young it is. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact the race shares its finish, in the city’s Piazza del Campo, with the most famous and historic Italian race of all, the Palio di Siena.