Blazin' Saddles: 2019 WorldTour and Pro-Continental new kits rated and reviewed
With EF Education First bringing up the rear by finally revealing their lurid colours for the coming season, it's time to rate and review all the WorldTour kits for 2019. Once again, it seems like the fabled fade is very much in vogue this year. Meanwhile Sunweb have gone red and Sky have returned to their original black togs – but with a twist.
From daring changes to middle-of-the-road mediocrity, corporate billboards to 80s-inspired tie-dye and Euskaltel-style orange: there's a bit of everything in the new kits for the WorldTour peloton. At least, for those who have bothered to change their jerseys in the first place.
Without further ado, Felix 'Paul Smith' Lowe casts a sartorial eye over the best – and worst – kits from the WorldTour and Pro Continental pelotons.
Ag2R-La Mondiale: 5/10
Why change a winning formula that is a tried and tested maxim but one that hinges on said formula being winning in the first place. In the case of Ag2R, the jury remains out.
Besides a few minor sponsor tweaks their kit is largely unchanged: good news for those who like brown shorts and Neapolitan ice-cream, where strawberry has been replaced by bubblegum; bad news for the rest of us.
Astana Pro Team: 8/10
The only thing that may differ a little this year is an apparent reduction of the fade that seemed to bridge Astana's gradual shift away from baby blue to black shorts last year – a move which was welcomed with open arms by most.
If this is one of the most distinctive kits of the peloton, it's also one of the best. That said, they could have done better with the national champions' jerseys, including Gorka Izagirre's.
Bahrain Merida: 6/10
A subtle change for the oil-rich-sponsored team, with an off-centre vertical navy banner and two opposing electric green stripes crisscrossing the torso. It's distinctive and classy – although not a kit that suits everyone, it must be said. Navy blue shorts balance things out nicely.
Another team going down the subtle-difference road are Peter Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe, who have merely tweaked the colouring order of the chest chevrons. It's a great look – and even the ostensibly rather plain national champions jerseys look stylish, with Sagan merely losing a few of his rainbow bands to downgrade from a man of the world to merely Slovakian.
CCC Team: 3/10
Following the BMC-CCC merger, the team have gone for a new look which harks back to the glory days of Euskaltel. While orange shorts would have been unadvisable, the sheep-following waist fade is a bit lazy and the orange socks are just wrong.
At the very least, team captain Greg Van Avermaet will stand out. But let's be serious: if this were a British town, it'd be Grimsby. CCC in name; DDD when it comes to grading their kit's colours, style and elegance.
Patrick Lefevere's call for a new sponsor resulted in a delivery of the sustainable PVC windows and doors, roofline and cladding company Deceuninck, which, together with the laminate, wood and luxury vinyl flooring ensemble of lead-sponsor Quick-Step has resulted in a full house of Belgian housing solutions (plus a huge plug for Lidl).
Little change with the kit, mind. It still looks classy, especially when modelled by a rider who should be in the Starship Troopers franchise. Extra brownie points are added for the team's colourful line in national champions kits which, from collar right down to snazzy socks, are right on point.
EF Education First: 8/10 (or 1/10)
It was a long time coming but EF Education First finally released their eye-catching new togs on the eve of the Tour Down Under on Friday night and, well, we didn't expect that. With Rapha at the helm, innovation was always going to be the name of the game – but pink-and-purple tie-dye? Wow.
It certainly looks more like something you'd see on a hipster commuter – or even at the Hacienda – than in the pro-ranks. Navy shorts balance out the garish top, which isn't so much a fade as a psychedelic seep, while it remains to be seen if the Giro organisers will actually allow such a clash with their own fabled maglia rosa.
But you know what, it's bold, brave and instantly recognisable, the branding is simple but clear and the result is a breath of fresh air – even if it will only suit riders with beards, tattoos and kooky glasses. In the words of Taylor Phinney: "Fo' sho' dude, nobody looks this cool." That said, few are going to look as cringingly bad as some of the EF Education First lot... For sure.
No change for the French team with their patriotic red, white and blue ensemble. On balance, it's a nice (if a little boring) look although the blue shorts are a bit crowded.
Groupama-FDJ really come into their own, however, with their national champions jerseys, for which they continue their admirable trend of eschewing all sponsor logos – a classy gesture, and one which earns them a bonus point.
Lotto Soudal: 6/10
The black semi-fade dots around the waistline act as a link between the shorts (admirably black) and red-and-white jersey (rather lacklustre). New signing Caleb Ewan looks pretty neat in the kit – and the whole get-up is distinctively Lotto Soudal-esque – but it's not exactly sartorial Viagra.
Just a couple of very minor changes for a team which no doubt thought, 'Well, we did well last year so why bother reinvent the wheel?'.
Apostrophe-shy new co-sponsor LetsGo Motorhomes put their grammatically incorrect logo on the bogey-green shoulders, while the silhouette of the tower at the Mitchelton winery in Australia appears above the main logo on the chest. A safe offering, but a good one.
Movistar Team: 5/10
No change for Movistar, who return with their electric-blue-fading-into-navy offering. While not a scratch on their former dark blue and green togs, the new colouring is eye-catching and a grower – although the team deserves a ticking off for the token women's national champions jersey given to half-pint-sized Eider Merino, with its miserably small Spanish flag.
Alejandro Valverde's world champions kit salvages things, the team sensibly offering the Spanish veteran black shorts and not regulation dark blue ones.
Team Dimension Data: 8/10
What used to be a corporate mess of a jersey is now a rather slick ensemble – the classy green, white and black colour scheme offset by the jaunty waving hand of Qhebeka and its positive and charitable message on the back. Should Mark Cavendish win no more races then at least he'll do so in style.
Team Jumbo-Visma: 8/10
With a new name and new co-sponsor comes… pretty much the same as before. The Dutch national lottery may have jumped ship, but the Oslo-based business solution provider and IT company Jumbo have not forced the designers to walk the plank.
Besides the new logo the only difference is the de rigueur dotted fade around the waist. In summary, this is snazzy kit that suits new boy Tony Martin more than his last one did.
Team Katusha-Alpecin: 7/10
The thing about the Katusha kit is that the colours are great, the style is on point and the all-round package is very nice – it's just that, like designer casualwear, it doesn't suit everyone. Black shorts may have worked better – but the deeper blue jerseys are better than the two-tone red Alpecin confusion of last year.
Team Sky: 9/10
In their last season with Sky as lead sponsor – perhaps their last season, full stop – the British team have reverted to their black colours, albeit with a twist: a reverse metallic dark-blue glossy fade on the shoulders looks slicker than oil.
It remains to be seen if Castelli bring out a limited-edition Tour jersey as per recent years. They shouldn't: as it is, Sky's new kit cuts more mustard than Professor Plum with the dagger in the conservatory.
Team Sunweb: 9.5/10
In a year when their peers have played it safe, the Dutch team have turned things on its head with an elegant red jersey featuring the team's trademark double stripe and a black fade around the waist. The result is more thumbs-up than an emoji-fuelled love-in on Whatsapp.
Funnily enough, the new Sunweb kit is not entirely dissimilar to last year's offering from Trek-Segafredo. This year, Trek have provided the Marmite option of the WorldTour: vintage blocks of red, black and white which, like proper, strong coffee, is not to everyone's taste, but ticks all the boxes in our eyes.
Those who prefer the women's kit have a case but, let's be honest now, not a leg to stand on: the blue-line stack is chic but the men's kit more eye-catching.
UAE-Team Emirates: 3/10
Last but not least – actually, that's a lie: last but clearly least – is the latest dire mulch from the Arabian Peninsula, where kit designers seem to be in short supply (either that or hamstrung by a brief of intoxicating boredom).
Gone are the black shoulders on this all-white new jersey and it's no surprise why Dan, Fabio and Alexander look so cranky. Next year, why not throw caution to the wind with a Mondrian-style block-pattern jersey in black, white, red and green?
The best and worst of the Pro-Continentals
Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec: 5/10
So bad that it's almost good, the latest Androni offering will see their riders return once again as riding billboards during races with at least 17 sponsor logos patchworked all over the jersey.
Arkea Samsic: 8.5/10
Note to UAE-Team Emirates: this is how you do a classy white jersey. Looking this good, Warren Barguil should re-find his mojo and Andre Greipel will help push for a Tour de France wildcard selection. The best bit besides its symmetry and simplicity? The rings around the arms and thighs. Swoon.
Green, white and orange is never a good mix at the best of times – unless you're in the Irish or Ivorian flag business – but at least the latest Bardiani kit is restrained while downplaying its sponsor logos. One can't help but think of a popular Japanese cuisine typo above the stomach, mind.
Caja Rural: 8/10
Pick of the bunch is this green and black gem from Spain, which should earn the team a wildcard entry to the Vuelta purely on sartorial grounds.
Cofidis, Solutions Credits: 2/10
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… or as the French may say, zut alors! Quelle monstruosité! The only thing going for it is Nacer Bouhanni's collar – and he's the only rider who can sport it.
Vital Concept: 6/10
Kudos for trying something a bit different around the torso but the white collar looks too thick and you just know that the designers agonised over the positioning of the T of Vital and the second C of Concept. Still, in terms of colours and originality, this would earn rather apt grades of B and B.
What do you think of this year's new kits? Which is your favourite and your worst? Have we made a pig's ear of our ratings? Have your say below or contact Felix Lowe on Twitter: @saddleblaze