To say that Le Coq Sportif is back suggests that it had went away and that’s not strictly accurate. What is true is that the French sportswear brand has been beavering away in tennis, rugby and football, boules and whatever else the French love, but paying less attention to cycling.
However, in the last three or four years, ‘Le Coq’ has woken up to two things. Firstly, that the cycling market is booming. And secondly that it has a long and credible history of involvement in cycling that could, reasonably, be exploited. So Le Coq returned to the sponsorship, design and production of the leaders jerseys in the Tour de France in 2012 – though it first supplied jerseys to the Tour back in 1951 (the logo only went on the jerseys from 1966…).
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In the UK, Le Coq Sportif might be a niche sportswear brand, but it occupies a unique position as a cycling name. The older generation recall the distinctive logo on yellow jerseys worn by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. Those who fell in love with the sport more recently will have seen it on Bradley Wiggins’ yellow jersey in 2012. Either way, as brand recognition and heritage go, it has all the bases covered.
This summer, with the Tour de France in the UK, le Coq has produced a handful of jerseys which recognise this fact by incorporating a ‘watermarked’ Yorkshire rose in their designs and very subtle they are too.
There’s not a huge line of designs, rather Le Coq Sportif claims that it does a few things very well aimed at serious competitive and Sportive riders. The prices aren’t Rapha or Assos and the cut isn’t out-and-out skeletal racer while Le Coq claims the quality of materials and design is up there with the Italian (Castelli, Santini) and, er, Scottish (Endura) brands.
For truly brave souls with little sense of cycling tradition, you can actually buy a 100 per cent genuine Tour leaders classification jersey, which Le Coq is making available in limited numbers. Whether you see yourself as a maillot jaune, vert, blanc or maillot a pois kind of rider, you can buy exactly the same jersey as those classification leaders will wear this July.
Constructed from lighter, mesh material on the back, laser-cut high silicon content sleeves, a stitched down collar and heavier wicking material on the front, the jerseys are all immaculate. However, traditionalists will no doubt feel these have to earned rather than purchased at £125.00
If you still fancy a Tour jersey, there is a less expensive option, made with lower spec materials and less silicon – though with the same design and colours – at £64.99. These are described as ‘fan wear.’ There’s actually a very nifty ‘Etape du Tour’ jersey in this range too.
The Performance Line apparel is surely where most interest will lie and there are jerseys, shorts and arm warmers but there are also Merino wool base layers, Eroica line retro jerseys in Merino wool, caps and socks that will find wide appeal too, partly for the materials, cut and construction and partly for the styling.
The Performance Line Arac jerseys (there are four designs, £85 each) feature the same materials as the pukka Tour de France jerseys, with different density materials front and back, a retro stitched down ‘collar,’ design, full-length zip, lined collar, grippy silicon at the waist, polyester-elastane blend sleeves and a cut that is more ergo than baggy without requiring a supermodel physique to make it comfortable. The black and white and the Spearmint, white and black models look great.
There are two bib-short options, the slightly lighter lycra Volp model and the heavier ‘compression’ lycra in the Nopton version – both use the same number of panels and anti-bacterial pad. Both also have mesh bibs and subtle but classy use of a small bleu-blanc-rouge tricolore logo and that fighting Coq on the left leg.
Other items that caught the eye were a lightweight (back pocket portable) rain cape, the Montech and Echium gilet, a Spring or cool day in Summer item.
There’s not a range of thousands of items and colours in the 2014 Spring-Summer Le Coq Sportif range, but what there is looks well made, with design and style features that are worthy of further investigation. Prices are, as they say, competitive.
More information: www.lecoqsportif.com