Summer romance is unavoidable, particularly if you follow road racing or participate in the sport. And alongside the long hot days, melting tarmac and drama of the Grand Tours to enjoy, there are those riders who’ve become icons of summer, figures who epitomise the glory and suffering of winning on the grandest stages. Here we salute riders who showed class physically and sartorially in their pursuit of victory, and offer a guide to dressing in the best Rapha has to offer for summer riding and racing. Bonne route.
Luis ‘Lucho’ Herrera was a pioneering Colombian rider, who epitomised his home nation’s fervour for road racing, particularly at the Grand Tours and mountain stages. Like many of his compatriots, he excelled on the cols, taking on Europe’s best altitude specialists. Famed for their climbers, Colombians call their mountain men ‘escarabajos’ or beetles, for the darting strength on the gradients. Also known as ‘El Jardinerito’ (the Little Gardener), in 1984 whilst still an amateur, Herrera won stage 17 of the Tour up to Alpe d’Huez. He became the second rider – after Spaniard Federico Bahamontes – to win the King of the Mountains title at the three major Grand Tours.
Winner of the triple crown in 1987 and a Worlds title, Stephen Roche is arguably Ireland’s greatest cyclist to date. He is certainly up there with fellow countryman Sean Kelly and, like Kelly, was admired for his all-round ability and smooth pedalling style. Good against the clock, Roche’s elegance on a bike and clean-cut style belied his gargantuan efforts to win at all costs. After his famous attempt to catch Pedro Delgado on the climb to La Plagne at the 1987 Tour, he said ‘I just ate the road’.
A shining light in both women’s road racing and American sport in general, before she learnt to race a bike Carpenter was an Olympic standard speed skater. Having trained on a bicycle during the off-season, an injury in 1976 cut her speed skating career short and she took to racing on the roads full time. In 1976, 1977, and 1979, Carpenter was the U.S. national road and track pursuit champion. Her crowning moment was winning the Olympic gold on the road at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. An elegant sprinter and great ambassador for the sport, she is married to Davis Phinney and is the mother of current professional racer Taylor Phinney.
Always riding on the front, barking out orders, but remaining cool all the same, Hinault was nicknamed Le Blaireau (the badger), although he claims this title was simply what his friends used to call him - not because of his combative riding style and fiery temper. He won one-day races and Grand Tours in the company of the greatest riders the sport has witnessed, and in 1984 he left his French-owned Renault team to establish his own, multinational super-star squad, La Vie Claire - the first team to champion english-speaking riders and use clipless pedals. The last Frenchman to win the Tour, Hinault once said: “As long as I breathe, I attack.”