There is nothing more Italian than the jersey of the Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec pro cycling team. It is plastered with sponsors. Emblazoned. Festooned.
In the UK we like cycling kit in the minimal style. Think Sky (or Ineos), with it’s understated cool, and the tribe of Rapha-clad single-stripe weekend warriors. Less is more. In Italy the cyclists embrace the image of bike rider as billboard.
It’s part of their culture.
Which presumably makes the Androni Jersey the alter at which they worship.
It’s also a very visual representation of the utter lack of cash in Italian cycling; that a second division team like Androni have to wheel, and deal, and wring every cent out of their advertising space.
Which would make flamboyant general manager Gianni Savio a cross between Del-Boy and Harry Redknapp. If they are, indeed, different enough to be able to effectively cross.
Today, on stage six, the several dozen sponsors of the team well and truly got some bang for their buck, as promising (and in form) young Italian Fausto Masnada delivered a breakaway win; the first Grand Tour stage of his highly promising career.Embed from Getty Images
In the hope of pumping a few more Euro’s worth of exposure into Italian cycling his compatriot, Valerio Conti of UAE Team Emirates (an Italian team in Emirati disguise), shared breakaway duties to relieve early (and ever so slightly reluctant, at this stage) race leader Primoz Roglic of his pink jersey.
Or, to give the Slovenian his official Sean Kelly pronunciation: Primoz Rodge-lick.
“I’m struggling to understand what I’ve done,” said Conti, endearingly, surprised, to say the least, by how well his day had gone.
Just to cap of this very Italian day on the Giro Giovanni Carboni, another of the original thirteen escapees, made big time and now wears the white jersey of best young rider.
Of those escapees Masnada and Conti had whittled the group down until, on the main climb of the day, with twenty-odd kilometres to go, it was down to the two of them. They’d clearly worked out one of those mutually beneficial alliances that we cycling fans love so much.
We see them have their little chat and feel like insiders by understanding the plan.
Masnada pulls hard on the climbs while Conti contributes on the flat. Masnada gets the mountain points leaving the sprint points for Conti. Masnada ends the day as a Grand Tour stage winner and Conti takes delivery of a pink bike, helmet, shorts, and jersey to match.
An Italian leader of the Tour of Italy.
Fifteen minutes of fame for Conti.
And Masnada looks more like a future World Tour rider with each impressive result.
Stage six was always a stage for the breakaway. Too hard for the sprinters, and too easy for the General Classification contenders to bother knocking lumps out of each other.Embed from Getty Images
Primoz Roglic seemed happy to pass on the pink jersey with a mind to retrieving it later in the race. A willingness surely compounded by an early crash which saw him gash a glaring rip in his shorts and display almost the entirety of his right buttock to the watching world.
After that he was happy to avoid the limelight for a while.
But for Italian cycling, and their sponsor-heavy jerseys, the limelight is exactly what they now have.