Kit de Triomphe

On Sunday 26th July 2015, Team Sky rode victoriously onto the cobbles of the Champs-Élysées, having won one of the greatest and toughest Tour de France’s in the last decade. Finishing three weeks of incredible toil and sacrifice on Europe’s most prestigious boulevard, the riders rode in formation in a distinctive, yellow detailed kit change-out. Christopher Froome, his teammates, colleagues and friends, celebrated in style. But there was a lot of work done behind the scenes to get the kit and vehicles ready and waiting for riders and staff in Paris.

Cascading from the need to give Chris Froome custom yellow items, as is the tradition at the Tour, once the ‘Froome-Wagon’ was awarded the yellow jersey (that he held all the way to Paris) Rapha sent him some custom bib shorts with a yellow band. Delighted by this Froome sent a text to Paul Carr (Team Sky-Rapha Logistics) to say thank you, ‘they’re awesome…’

“Once we got them on him, the idea was pitched we could give the rest of the team something for the last day, providing they retained the yellow jersey. The rule is teams are allowed one kit change-out per year, for one race,” explains Paul.

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So the Team Sky design staff at Rapha set to work on a one-off victory kit, making use of the maillot jaune yellow as a contrast colour, rather than the usual Sky blue.

And as this was really only possible for one day (decking out the riders in the kit before Paris would have been problematic to say the least), the design and change-out had to have maximum impact. Alongside shorts riders were given bespoke jerseys, gloves, socks, base layers and Kask helmets. But it wasn’t just about switching the arm band and leg band from blue to yellow, as designer Catie Marshall describes:

“We did lots of variations, it might seem like a straight forward change, but actually getting the right balance of colour and tuning all the details was a lengthy process…. we explored lots of proposals to get to the final approved design. Alongside yellow accents and contrasts, we added commemorative print detailing like the Arc de Triomphe icon we’ve used on the t-shirt, the date, the French tricolour and a team roster with all the riders’ names.”

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The whole kit was designed as an outfit with jersey, shorts, socks, gloves and caps. This also made it easier to visualise for designers, Team Sky staff and PR people alike, plus the impact of an entire race outfit switched out is even greater once out on the road. Unfortunately certain pieces like rain jackets could not be made due to the time they take to produce (DWR treatment on the team’s rain jackets takes over 48 hours to dry).

Once the designs were drawn up and signed off at Rapha (on the Monday of the second week of racing) they then had to go to Team Sky for sign off and then official approval from the UCI. The letter from the UCI arrived notifying agreement on Friday 17th July, which is when the order for production in Italy was placed. Fortunately Rapha’s working relationship and communication lines with both Team Sky and the manufacturers in Italy is well rooted, so everyone worked extremely hard to get the job done in time for the last weekend of the race. Paul says: “People really bent over backwards to get it done, it was a real team effort…”

The kit left Italy on the Wednesday night [the 22nd] and arrived at Rapha HQ in London on Thursday afternoon. Overall a turnaround of ten days, no mean feat. It was then quality checked ensuring logos were all right, everything was measuring correctly, names were spelt accurately, and the right chamois pads were inserted into each rider’s shorts. It was then a case of liaising with Team Sky to get it delivered. So not only the kit for the riders, but t-shirts, socks and embroidered polo shirts for all the staff, in the correct sizes.

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Only one person within the team actually knew what was going on across the board, which was Rod Ellingworth. So Paul organised with Rod where to deliver everything to, which was a variety of locations – from Alpe d’Huez to Chambéry. Paul flew into Geneva with 26kgs of kit in two huge suitcases on Friday night, ready to drive them to various hotels and drop-off points in southern France. But that’s when the real difficulty started. The bags didn’t turn up on the carousel.

“I was like ‘oh my f**king god.’ A lost baggage situation isn’t fun for anyone but a lot of work had gone into this. So we had to reorganise the distribution, and my brief was basically ‘get that stuff to Paris.’

Fortunately the bags arrived in Geneva on the Saturday and Paul shot up to Paris late Saturday night. On Sunday morning, Paul and a number of Team Sky carers laid all the kit out on the Team bus on the riders’ seats. As luck would have it the riders didn’t know until the morning of the final stage they were going to receive the switch-out.

“It was like Christmas for them, they all loved it. We gave each rider two jerseys. This is the sort of keepsake a rider will want to hang in their trophy room or bike shed.”

It’s a set of kit the riders will surely cherish for a long time, and a fitting tribute to all of the riders and staff who have made this Tour an historic and hard earned success. Cat Doyle, the lead for Rapha’s Team Sky kit development, said: “It was great to go over together as a team from Rapha and see all our hard work pay off… It was very rewarding seeing them fly past us on the Champs-Élysées.”

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