George Bennett took the national championships road race in New Zealand earlier this year, a title he has been fighting for as one of his main career goals.
But the celebrations have been slightly spoilt by the cycling federation in New Zealand, which has declined Bennett’s chosen kit, designed by Jumbo-Visma’s kit maker AGU and Bennett’s wife, Caitlin Fielder.
Speaking in The Social Distance Podcast, Bennett said: “AGU and the team produced this amazing jersey. It was just the coolest jersey. Then Caitlin did a couple of tiny little touches and we were like ‘sweet’.
“We were all excited, we emailed Bike NZ and said ‘hey guys, we’re really proud to show that this is the jersey we’ll be wearing this year’, and Bike NZ were like ‘nah.’”
To give some background, the national federations have to be sent the national champion’s kit designs and decides whether it is suitable or not.
General manager of Jumbo-Visma Richard Plugge posted an image of what the jersey would look like on Twitter to share with Thomas Van den Spiegel, CEO of Flanders Classics.
Bennett explained: “It was black with a silver fern, and they said ‘we’re too worried it’ll get confused with the national jersey’. I was like ‘what, in case the national team start the Giro d’Italia?’
“They just shut it down so hard. We went to the UCI and they basically told the UCI ‘no, we’ve registered a white jersey with a black fern’. They just crushed it, and now we’ve ended up with a jersey that’s alright but it’s not striking. It was an awesome striking jersey that looked so cool.”
The CEO of Cycling New Zealand, Jacques Landry, explained the reasons as to why the jersey was not accepted in a statement sent to Cyclingnews, saying: “We have national champions across all of our disciplines and events who wear the same shirt with the same registered design.
“It is simply not possible nor is it the correct process to make such a fundamental change to the jersey design two months into the year on the request of one national champion.
“That said, we are more than happy to discuss a potential change to the design of the national champion’s jersey going forward which would need to go through the correct process, including input from the Athletes’ Voice Committee members who represent all of our Olympic and soon to be Paralympic codes.”
The usual NZ champion’s design is a white jersey with a black fern on the front and back, whereas the national team kit is black with a white fern.
One Jumbo-Visma rider, Mike Teunissen, joked in a tweet saying “at least no 5,000 CHF fine, could be worse.”
National champions jerseys often throw up debate among cycling fans, as teams often vary their designs greatly, but cycling federations have very strict rules that must be followed otherwise they could face a fine.