What can possibly go wrong with a white jersey and rainbow bands? Well, quite a lot as it turns out

Everyone wants to be world champion. Not only do you get crowned the best in the world on race day, but you get to wear the coveted rainbow stripes for a whole year to show off your triumph.

But not all world champions kits are created equal.  There’s been some real good looking champs kits over the years, but there’s been a few stinkers too… which got us thinking about which exactly were the worst world champion’s kits over the years.

Now one thing to note is that the blame for some of these kits must lie at the door of the UCI, whose rulebook stipulates that riders must either wear team issue shorts, or shorts that match the jersey, i.e. white.

Maybe if a rider was willing to take a risk with black shorts, then the governing body might see sense and realise that they are the best way to complement the rainbow bands.

Mario Cipollini

Mario Cipollini was never going to go for the subtle approach with his world champion’s kit (Photo: Watson)

Any article on kit misdemeanours has to include Mario Cipollini somewhere, so we’ll get him out of the way early. Never a man to do things by halves, Cipo didn’t hold back with his deployment of the rainbow bands after winning the World Championships in Zolder in 2002.

>>> The eight worst kit blunders

Riding for Domina Vacanze he lavishly splashed the bands on his jersey, shorts, arm warmers, knee warmers, overshoes, skull cap, and bike. Although in this picture from the 2003 edition of Ghent-Wevelgem we think he’s actually been upstaged by the shocking ensemble of German national champion Danilo Hondo in the background.

Oscar Freire

Freire was always fighting a losing battle when trying to combine the rainbow jersey with Mapei shorts (Photo: Sunada)

Alongside Alfredo Binda, Rik van Steenbergen, Eddy Merckx, and now Peter Sagan, Oscar Freire is one of only five riders to have won the World Championships on three occasions. The bad news was that he rode for Mapei – Quick-Step and that meant trying to combine the rainbow bands with the, err, colourful Mapei shorts in his final year with the team in 2002.

Although we like the subtle rainbow bands on his Sidi shoes and Colnago bike, the watering down of the colours on the shorts cannot save this kit combo.

Watch our pick of Ocotber’s best tech

 Johann Museeuw

Johan Museeuw Gent-Wevelgem 1997

A wet day in Belgium doesn’t do those shorts justice (Photo: Watson)

Like Freire, Johan Museeuw was another victim of the curse of the Mapei shorts during his season as world champion in 1997. However, unlike Freire, Museeuw opted against watering down the garish colours of his shorts, but at least mud and water kicked up during a wet edition of Ghent-Wevelgem made them appear less bright in the picture above.

>>> The 25 most stylish cyclists of all time

Museeuw was one of the first world riders to dispense with the black shorts when riding in the rainbow jersey, following teammate Abraham Olano’s lead from the year before. It would take riders such as Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd in later years to steer the cycling world back towards black shorts with the world champion’s jersey.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert went for red BMC shorts and arm warmers in his first race as world champion

Philippe Gilbert went for red BMC shorts and arm warmers in his first race as world champion (Photo: Watson)

Ok, so we might be being a bit harsh on Philippe Gilbert here, as the photo above is from his first race as world champion, Il Lombardia, which took place just six days after he took the title in Valkenberg in 2012. However, despite the short turn around time, surely a decent-sized kit supplier such as Hincapie could have at least come up with some black shorts for the new world champion.

Instead Gilbert was forced to use his normal red team shorts and arm warmers, which look, frankly, pretty bad alongside the rainbow bands. However, a few points are clawed back through the subtle rainbow detailing on the BMC bike.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan in world champion's kit

Peter Sagan shows off his world champion’s kit complete with white shorts

Last but by no means least we’ve got Peter Sagan. The now three-time world champion went down the Mario Cipollini route with lavish distribution of the rainbow stripes, and, controversially, white shorts in his first few outings as world champion in 2015.

>>> Peter Sagan says fourth consecutive world title ‘not impossible’ despite mountainous 2018 course

Thankfully, the black shorts emerged in 2016 with Tinkoff’s new kit, leading to a pretty stylish looking Sagan for the remainder of 2016. He kept the black shorts with a move to Bora-Hansgrohe for the 2017 season and now looks very reluctant to give up the rainbow bands.

  • raganwald

    I also took this as a tongue and cheek thing, like the kind of banter you have while downing a pint with friends. Not worth the bilious umbrage.

  • Seabeast

    Wait until you get caught in the rain in them! The spectators really get an eyeful then.

  • Philip Bamber

    I don’t get the problem with the white shorts and I personally think it looks good. Real Madrid don’t get ridiculed for having an all-white kit and Sagan’s not exactly Peter Beardsley is he?

  • Arf! what a strange obsession you have with the groin area, if that is the case, “Is my shadow showing in this?” Arf! you can not be serious! This could be a Monty Python Sketch…..

  • What utter nonsense being spouted, white kits and the combinations are certainly not the worst. The worst ones are the most boring reticent efforts of Black and dull primary unexpressive colours from the most uncreative of teams and individuals that shy away from expression! One of the best team colours ever was Mapei and Peter Sagan looks fantastic in his championship strip and all good to him, it is bright and expressive much like his character. Some white SIDI championship shoes would not go amiss. Since when does some CW become experts on what individuals should be wearing? It would take a buffoon to mock the sport in this way!

  • Thiago Corrêa

    You’re right.
    I’m sure white gets better in Sagan’s case.

  • Thiago Corrêa

    Agree. I still can’t understand what is wrong with white shorts. Any better idea to match with the rainbow jersey? Less is more, get it white and done.

  • eminusx

    yeah I was wondering this myself. Has Karl Lagerfeld died and made CW the doyen of all things fashion?
    Sagans ensemble doesn’t look so bad, its consistently one colour, its clean and unbroken, the rainbow stripes look good. some of the the other examples are far worse, and we always hoped Cippo would wear something bonkers anyway!

    Enough with the desperate clawing for clicks already.

  • cusser from jamaica

    Yo….CycleSport,,,, freakin Tom Simpson would have worn white shorts in ’66 he was so PR savvy. You just keep training and maybe one day you’ll be able to hold Lizzie’s wheel as she trains in her Worlds stripes pure white,

  • Gary Jogela

    I assume that the person that created this article was just having a laugh.Did the aforementioned champions care that the jersey didn’t go with the rest of the kit or that the whole ensemble looked outrageous?

  • West Ham, Egg and Chips

    Blimey. Lot of anger over a tongue in cheek, humorous article.

    I’m not a huge fan of white shorts myself – They have a tendency to go see through when wet and make you look like you’ve messed yourself if the road you’re riding is a bit dirty. If that’s not a problem for others, fair enough.

  • J1

    Actually there’s quite a few that are aero AF these days.

  • Raymond Liu

    When Sagan is racing in that kit the cameras won’t be in close focus on his groin all the time, and the ‘crotch shadow’ isn’t really gonna show anyway due to the way we sit on a bike. It’s hardly gonna look the same as it did in the photoshoot.

  • Larry Parker

    I agree!

  • ridein

    This is just another example of UCI ridiculous meddling, just like their mandated aero bar and seat restrictions.

  • Phil Humbert

    Hincapie is a cheat, and his clothing line leaves much to be desired…

  • TS

    chamois+tight garment shows bulky genital area, which creates shadow around groin. shadows give better contrast against white which highlights the bulk even more. personally I don’t care that much, but some people think it’s a decency issue.

    At least it’s not skin color like that Colombian Women’s team…

  • Nuffts

    Surely white shorts with white jersey are better than anything white with lime green?!?

  • Raymond Liu

    Explain to me please why the fact the garments being skin tight affects how the colour combination works aesthetically

  • paul cockrill

    If you’ve won a world championship you Are entitled to criticise … Otherwise be quiet

  • TS

    I don’t remember they are skin-tight with a chamois…

  • Raymond Liu

    So I presume the writer also thinks the Real Madrid kit to be ridiculous then? Seeing as it is composed of white shorts and jerseys also? Or the England football kit?

  • Nigel Rue

    The only thing worse than the helmet police is the fashion Gestapo.

  • David Sundheim

    These CW puff and fluff pieces are laughable… Not to mention the ridiculous Team Sky bias. It reads like a Brittish tabloid that has interest in cycling.

  • ummm…

    honestly, I think Sagans look is solid. Also, yes, lets leave the topic alone. I know it is late in the season. Just give us a Lance article, or another top 10 something. Anything but this. Anyhow, do appreciate the hard work.

  • Ryan Bolin

    White bibs or not. they could still drop you like a bad habit!

  • J1

    An article that ridicules Mario’s fashion choices?? This article is invalid.

    Can you stop going on about white shorts, it’s boring, Sagan has the choice of that or the blue and yellow of his team kit, neither will look that nice. If you’re that bothered, create a petition to bring back black shorts only and send it to the UCI.

    What’s the next article going to be? “What Sagan could look like in black shorts” ?

  • Adam Beevers

    And CW’s cycling fashion police’s problems with white shorts are what? Why does CW define what looks good?

  • MikeTea

    The UCI should do everyone a favour and mandate black shorts (with lettered sponsors’ advertising) for every world champion.