Tan lines: a badge of honour among other cyclists, a potential source of embarrassment when transferring your cycling aesthetics to the real world

We’ve all done it. Thought about how good our tan looks. Even to the extent of choosing which cycling kit to wear to accentuate or maintain a well-cultivated tan.

To a fellow cyclist a sharp tan shows how dedicated a rider you are, and often attracts envious eyes wondering which far away hotter climate you have been lucky enough to ride in. However, off the bike a cyclist’s tan lines can cause ridicule, in particular sock lines and t-shirt lines.

>>> Buyer’s guide to summer cycling clothing

Unfortunately for the pros when riding in the sun for up to six or seven hours a day they don’t have the liberty to consider how good their cycling tan lines will look when off the bike, let alone when wearing a skin suit. Here are some of the best pro tan lines we’ve seen.

Mario Cipollini

GWs Archive 2003

Mario Cipollini leading the way (?) in off the bike fashion (Photo: Watson)

The Italian known as the “Lion King” won 191 races from 1989 through to 1989, including the Rainbow jersey in 2002 and a record 42 stage wins in the Giro d’Italia.

In addition to his many victories, Cipollini is arguably the most stylish cyclist ever known, he truly led the way in mastering how to successfully transfer the cycling tan to everyday life – barely a tan line in sight.

Alessandro Petacchi

GWs Archive 2003

Petacchi had some great battles on the bike with Cipollini, although he was never in the same class when it came to tan lines (Photo: Watson)

For a fairly brief period Petacchi threatened to usurp Cipollini as the best sprinter in the Giro d’Italia, but he didn’t ever stand a chance in the quest to be most stylish.

Mark Cavendish

Tour de France - Stage 20

Cavendish celebrating his fourth 2012 Tour de France stage, brilliant tan lines (Photo: Watson)

Already established as one of Britain’s best ever cyclists with over 100 career wins and counting, Cavendish is becoming a trend-setter off the bike as well. Even his association with Paul Smith and Oakley though, can’t stop Cavendish from having distinct tan lines after three weeks of the Tour de France.

Chris Boardman

watson archive

Chris Boardman warming up on the rollers (Photo: Watson)

While Chris Boardman is best known for his track exploits, winning Olympic Individual pursuit gold in Barcelona in 1992, these tan lines show he was putting a lot of training on the road to assist his prowess on the track.

Andy Schleck

TOUR DE FRANCE - STAGE ELEVEN

Andy Schleck looking resplendent in the Yellow jersey in 2010 (Photo: Watson)

Luxembourg’s 2010 Tour de France winner recently retired due to a persistent knee problem. The last few years of his career may have been quieter than Schleck would have liked, but despite this we’ll always remember his impressive tan lines.

Vasil Kiryienka

World Road Championships - Mens TT

Kirienka’s Belarusian skin suit looks decidedly smaller than his Team Sky version (Photo: Watson)

The versatile Team Sky domestique, who recently won the European Games time trial, appears to have been caught out by his Team Sky kit having far longer arms and legs than his national team skin suit.

 David Millar

GWs Archive 2003

Even David Millar could not avoid the perils of a misfitting leader’s jersey (Photo: Watson)

David Millar was considered a man with a certain panache throughout his time in the pro-peloton, but even he couldn’t avoid the (tan) curse of the leader’s jersey.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome sunburn

Chris Froome’s sun burn in January 2014 after wearing Team Sky’s mesh skin suit

It would be wrong to fail to include Chris Froome in a list concerning sun tans/burns.

Following his victory in the Critérium du Dauphiné Chris Froome is carrying out his final preparations before attempting to win his second Tour de France.

Froome and Team Sky are well known for their meticulous preparation and attention to detail, but trying to find marginal gains does not always go as smoothly as one would hope.

The 2015 Tour de France route 

  • Vespertine

    Right? You even have to look hard to see Cipo’s. Lazy

  • Sound in Chains

    What about Michael Rasmussen??

  • Baked-P0tato

    If this list was supposed to highlight the cyclists with the most contrasting tan lines, it failed. There are way better names.