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Thursday, September 14, 2023

PEZ Goes to the Films: The Legend of the Rainbow Jersey

With the latest UCI World Championships in Glasgow overlaying virtually each facet {of professional} bike racing aside from cyclocross, there was loads to rejoice. Whereas there have been epic battles aplenty (i.e., the Males’s Elite Particular person Pursuit), the premier occasions have to be thought-about the Elite Males’s and Girls’s Highway Races, each with deserving winners of the Rainbow Jersey in Mathieu van der Poel and Lotte Kopecky respectively. And, fortunately, no one talked about The Curse.

The Rainbow Jersey of the Highway World Champion is a sacred vestment in professional biking, the one jersey that the winner will get to put on in each race for the next yr, not like race-specific clothes such because the Maillot Jaune within the Tour de France or the Maglia Rosa within the Giro d’Italia. Biking is a conservative sport, typically seeking to the previous, which is simple to do given the historical past of the racing calendar. And cyclists being a generally superstitious lot, with traditions corresponding to pinning the race quantity 13 on upside, the give attention to the success or failures of the wearers of the Rainbow Jersey has induced some to contemplate it to be one thing cursed. This query is the topic of a brand new GCN+ documentary, “The Legend of the Rainbow Jersey.”

van vleuten
World champion Annemiek van Vleuten

Cillian Kelly is GCN’s statistician and as a presenter right here has a fan’s childlike enthusiasm for all issues biking. The present begins with a go to to an Irish fortune teller, who, upon being given a Rainbow Jersey to deal with, declares it to be a garment of a lot emotion and even some tragedy. Kelly’s activity is to carry the story of the jersey and its darkish previous into the sunshine and he undertakes this problem by going to Belgium, the epicentre of biking, and in time for the 2023 Liėge-Bastogne-Liėge race.

Evenepoel in Liège

The premise of The Curse is that winners of it have a dreadful season the next yr and that is actually true in some circumstances. Stephen Roche, who had a tremendous yr in 1987 by successful the Giro, the Tour and the World Championship, gained nothing in 1988, and several other different riders had data that weren’t a lot better, though Freddy Maertens, who had a fairly depressing yr in 1982 after his 1981 Worlds win, can be the rider with essentially the most wins in a season (44), which occurred the yr after his first Rainbow Jersey win in 1976! Others have studied The Curse and give you three logical interpretations: the Highlight Impact, the place the failures of the champion are rather more famous than these of different riders; the Marked Man Impact, the place the visibility of the jersey means redu’s ced alternatives for assaults or escapes; and the Regression to the Imply, the place the rider, who had a stellar yr successful the jersey, returns to his (or her) regular type the next yr.

Kelly with the rainbow jersey of Benoni Beheyt

Statistician Kelly makes an attempt to run by way of the numbers of what occurred to winners and isn’t satisfied there is sufficient to say the jersey actually does have a destructive impact on a rider. He categorizes winners is a special manner as properly: a) stars-to-be early of their careers; b) stars of their prime; c) stars ending their careers; and d) the outsiders. Visiting the superb biking museum in Roeselare, Belgium, he pull out a panel with the jersey and medals of 1963 winner Benoni Beheyt, who grabbed and held again fellow countryman and biking legend Rik van Looy, to take the win, to the mortification of all the nation and kind of the tip of his personal profession.

Jean-Pierre Monseré

Maybe The Curse is likely to be most relevant within the story of younger “Jempi,” Jean-Pierre Monseré. He gained gained the Worlds in August 1970 and died the next March at 22 in a minor race whereas carrying the Rainbow Jersey as he was getting ready for Milan-San Remo. He was struck by a automotive that entered the course and the museum in Roeselare has a superb exhibition dedicated to him. (Kelly doesn’t point out that horrible postcript to this: 5 years later Monseré’s seven yr previous son Giovanni died after being struck by a automotive whereas driving his racing bicyle—and whereas carrying a Rainbow Jersey).


After all, most of the riders talked about by Kelly had glorious seasons after their Worlds victories so he decides to speak with a variety of individuals about The Curse, together with journalists, followers at L-B-L, and quite a lot of the professional racers preparing for the race. Not one of the younger racers appeared satisfied of any form of curse (besides maybe that they’d not been in a position to really win it but!) and the followers have been uncertain as properly, though if their man Remco didn’t win L-B-L that day they might think about it, possibly. After all, Remco Evenepoel’s 2023 season was to be a portrait of a bicycle owner energized by the Rainbow Jersey…

With the followers in Liège

Kelly has the chance to interview a number of of the previous winners of the jersey: Johan Museeuw doesn’t imagine there’s a “ghost on the jersey,” and his season in 1997 began fairly properly, though failure to win his two largest races, Flanders and Roubaix, that yr, was a letdown however racing at this stage is at all times onerous. Michal Kwiatkowski, 2014 winner, appeared ambivalent about The Curse, noting that shifting round within the peloton was simpler with the jersey, whereas driving away from it was not. Rui Costa (2013 winner) speaks of the strain to carry out with the jersey, and the way different riders deal with you. That is amplified by Philippe Gilbert (Mr. 2012), who clearly has respect for the jersey and what it means however clearly didn’t benefit from the psychological impact. He notes that he was an attacker and if you have been the Rainbow Jersey it isn’t that a couple of different riders need to go along with you however extra like 50 in a race, so in some methods it modified him as a racer.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert’s 2013 was not all that nice (one stage on the Vuelta) however within the years following he would add a lot lustre to his palmares, with wins on the Tour of Flanders, Amstel Gold, and Paris-Roubaix, to quote only some successes. Annemiek van Vleuten, whom Kelly notes that on the time of filming had solely a 3rd place win in her post-2022 profession within the Rainbow Jersey, would after all win two of the foremost ladies’s stage races (in Italy and Spain) later within the season as she prepares for retirement after an astonishing profession. And we all know that Peter Sagan and Tom Boonen each had seemingly limitless wins within the Rainbow Jersey and afterwards, so no curse there.

Kelly spoke to Johan Museeuw

“The Legend of the Rainbow Jersey” is an gratifying hour to spend with Cillian Kelly, the biking nerd’s biking nerd, as he performs the historian, the star-struck fan, assembly legends of the game, the star-struck fan consuming a beer on La Redoute with the opposite beer-drinking followers, and even present process merchantile remedy as he retailers for jerseys. It’s a good dive into the historical past of certainly one of professional biking’s iconic clothes and the fascinating characters who’ve campaigned in it, whether or not beset by qualms or having fun with it to the total.

Michal Kwiatkowski
Michal Kwiatkowski thought on the rainbow jersey

“The Legend of the Rainbow Jersey”
Presened by Cillian Kelly, directed by Harry Dowdney
51 minutes
GCN+ Originals, 2023
Obtainable by way of streaming on GCN+

That jersey

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