Tadej Pogačar and his helmet tufts, a combination that goes together as much as Tadej Pogačar and winning bike races, or Tadej Pogačar and the white jersey (well, no longer).
It has become such a thing, such a meme, that MET, his UAE Team Emirates helmet sponsor, has produced a special Pogačar edition lid for the past two years, the MET Trenta 3K Carbon Tadej Pogačar.
Now, there is a new one, with a special carbon fibre design that means each lid is unique and different from each other.
Cycling is a sport obsessed with aesthetics. Riders shave their legs because it is what riders do, rather than any measurable performance gain. Stars of the sport prize their own special look, from Geraint Thomas' white Oakleys, now SunGods, to Marco Pantani's bandana.
Most riders try to stand out, but few succeed. With everyone going for the tried and tested white shoes and topped-up tan approach, it takes a different hairstyle or an interesting approach to fashion to be noticed outside of the herd.
Pogačar is already one of the most recognisable cyclists in the world, thanks mainly to him being one of the best, the winner of 63 races aged just 25, two time Tour de France champion, the man to beat across pretty much any terrain.
Aside from races for pure sprinters, there is seemingly no limit to what he could aim for, from Milan-San Remo to Paris-Roubaix via the World Championships.
His mane is always there; as you can see in the photo above from when he won Il Lombardia in October. No matter the scenario, no matter the race, one thing that is sure is that Pogačar will always have his special helmet hair.
It has grown beyond its meme status; it began as something that was talked about on social media by cycling fans and Pogačar fans, it has its own Twitter and Instagram accounts, is something people make fan art of and is something the Slovenian is asked about in interviews.
A photo posted by on
The new Tadej edition of the helmet not only has a special 'TP' logo on it, but it has references to the tufts across the top, including a special MET logo with spikes. It's fair to say the Italian company has gone out of its way to celebrate its most prized ambassador, the Tadej Tufts.
The press release that was sent out with the launch of the special edition product, yours for just £290, reads: "Engineered to keep your head – and hair – fresh and save precious energy, the MET Trenta 3K Carbon Mips®, with the Mips AIR® rotational management system, is the most advanced road helmet we’ve ever made, now enhanced even further with the help of our PowerTuft-optimised friend and partner, Tadej Pogačar.
"What if we told you that Tadej’s iconic tufts are created by the helmet’s performance design, sweeping air in and upwards, and drawing stems of dancing hair out through the vents?"
I got my hands on last year's helmet, very similar to this, to see if dancing hair really could be drawn out through the vents organically, and to see if it had any impact on my performance.
The first thing to be said is that it is a great helmet, feels comfortable, it's super light, breathable, and it looks good too. If you don't mind having Pogačar's logo on the lid, then it's excellent.
It also gets noticed - "is that a Pog racer?" someone asked me immediately when I shared a photo of it online - people in cycling know what is going on here, which must be good for MET.
Much more interestingly, the tufts did not present themselves automatically to me, my hair did not dance its way out of the vents automatically, raising questions over whether this happens to Pogačar too.
We have different hair, it has to be said, but not vastly different; if anything, the 25-year-old has flatter hair than I do. I'm no trichologist though, so maybe more friction or static is present to lift his hair up through the helmet.
I picture him pulling knots of hair through his lid before a big race, I suspect it's part of his pre-game routine.
A UAE source was having none of it, though, telling me last year: "Absolutely false and damaging allegations there."
More tongue in cheek, they added: "In reality several balloons are rubbed on his head pre-race to generate the necessary charge of electrons to power the tufts and give them their energy.
"For 2023 we're testing helium balloons to see if they provide a more 'robust tuft'."
I suppose it doesn't really matter, let the back-to-back-to-back Lombardia champion do what he wants with his hair, but it is a bit of intrigue in a sport where looks really matter.
More than that, cycling is obsessed with marginal gains, so might the hair be holding him back aerodynamically? The answer is no, according to a in-depth piece by Iain Treloar on CyclingTips last year.
A spokesman for MET told him: "Aerodynamic studies we’ve looked into suggest that for the most part, hair has very little impact on drag in that area, at most under a second over 40km." So he can do what he wants with his hair, as long as he keeps winning, I suppose.
If it also helps sell iconic helmets, that reference Pogačar's hair, then all the better. He denies it is planned, so we should take him at his word. No helmet-hair doping here.
"When I put my helmet on, my hair just stays the way it is. Always," he said at the Tour last year. "But it’s true that they’re too long now and I should cut them."
Keep your hair as it is, Tadej.
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