We are showing you the Australian version of our site: would you prefer a different location?
Sponsors logos and corporate colours have been the dominant influence on road racing livery since the early 20th century. The trade teams that wear them today consist of riders from all over the world. Yet between 1930 and 1961 the Tour de France was contested by national teams wearing their own country colours. These were the days when the French coureurs and Italian battistradi drew on their collective strength to dominate proceedings. But it was also a time when, particularly in the years after World War Two, the sport became much more international and a basic ranking system was introduced across the major races.
Today, loyalty is driven by commercial necessity; while some trade teams will try and recruit riders locally, it rarely makes practical sense. It would be great to see BMC building an all-Swiss squad but it would be unlikely to deliver much success. Having an Australian Tour de France winner and a Scandinavian ex-world champion not only gives you broader market reach but also more chance of winning races. Despite this, allegiances to certain national characteristics remain, principally because the stereotyping of riders is woven into the history of the sport for a reason. Quickstep see their penchant for Belgians as a no-brainer. If you sign a Belgian then you expect, at the very least, a talented and fearless racer.
But what of other cycling nations, what national traits can we attribute to them? To mark the launch of three exciting new colourways for the Rapha Country Jersey, three writers take a look at the characters – and characteristics – that inspired them.