We would all love to have a rainbow jersey to wear. Maybe wool, maybe long sleeve. It is white and beautiful, without argument the most handsome jersey going, yet we as Velominati will never own one. Well, I won’t and if you have any respect for the Rules neither will you. If you do own one you never dare wear it unless in your basement, in the dark, where your cycling friends won’t see you. It’s too magnificent a jersey to be worn by just any cyclist, it looks too good and it means too much. If ever there was a jersey you have to earn, this is it.
Bobet, Raas, Simpson, Saronni, Moser, Hinault, Merckx, most of the huge names of cycling have earned that privilege because they were the best. Few have been perhaps surprise wearers, Maurizio Fondriest may have lucked into his when Steve Bauer and Claude Criquielion tangled themselves up with the barriers but Maurizio won the sprint by not crashing, so I’m not even going to attempt an argument saying he was undeserving. Being in position to win this jersey means you are at the sharp end after 250km of racing; that alone means you are deserving. But dominating after that distance, that’s what actually puts you in the Arc en Ciel. It’s why Americans are rarely in contention in the Worlds road race; Continental US riders can’t handle the distance. I remember when Claude Criquielion won in 1984 in Barcelona, he was out the day before doing laps of the course, riding 120km. I was shocked, had I known of Rule #5 I would have nodded approvingly. However I would have been in bed with my legs up the day before a day like that. And that is why he has those stripes and I don’t (among other reasons).
People talk about the curse of the rainbow jersey, but I bet all those riders are still happy to have had a bad season because they still wore that jersey all year long. And those riders sport the rainbow stripes on the sleeves and collars of their jerseys for the rest of their careers. It’s subtle and no doubt missed by non-cyclists, but a Velominatus would never miss that.
*Normally, our Reverence posts are accompanied by a black & white image. As we’re sure you’ll agree, the rainbow bands warrant their full colour representation.