“As long as one rider finishes the race,
that's enough for me."
– Armando Cougnet, Giro d’Italia Organiser 1914.
It’s tempting to think of the Giro d’Italia as a poor man’s Tour de France. By the time the inaugural edition rolled out of Milan in 1909, the Tour had been up and running for six years. While the Tour introduced its maillot jaune as early as 1923, Italians had need to wait until 1931 for the maglia rosa – inspired by the unmistakable pink pages of its founders La Gazzetta della Sport. Italy routinely produced the better cyclists back then, but the Tour has always had more money and more prestige, and as such more of the world’s most talented riders. It has more of just about everything and as such, for the casual observer at least, it is the bike race.
For all its money-making acumen, the reality is that the Tour has never been the Giro’s equal as a cycling race. For over a century its route has been formulaic, its climate predictable, its racing anodyne by comparison. The Giro refuses – or is incapable – to subscribe to modern cycling’s one-size-fits-all matrix. These days its lead actors are seldom drawn from Tuscany, Veneto and Lombardy, but its character and temperament are still quintessentially Italian.
Resolutely chaotic and resolutely human, the Giro remains fundamentally a work of contemporary art. It’s an object lesson in how not to organise a 21st century bike race and therein, paradoxically but very obviously, lies its greatest virtue. God forbid that it should ever mutate into something – a pale imitation of the Tour – that it isn’t.
And so to Fabio Aru’s Sardinia, starting point of the 100th edition. Sadly, with Aru out of the Giro there will be no dualismo which characterised the race during the “golden age”, but almost entirely appropriately it will island-hop to Nibali’s Sicily next. Race director Mauro Vegni may not get an old-fashioned mano a mano, but there is a stellar group of stranieri waiting to take the maglia rosa from Nibali. Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Ilnur Zakarin, the Yates brothers, Geraint Thomas, Bauke Mollema and Tejay Van Garderen lay in wait.
Accordingly, Black Sheep’s Special Edition Giro 100 Kit, in collaboration with Bike Style Tours, is an ode to the Giro. To its beauty. To its century edition. And to races past. The kit features an incredible amount of detail – both seen and unseen – as well as a colour palette that pays homage to race’s roots.
Front and back the jerseys reads ITALIA, reminiscent of the iconic Azzurri football jerseys of early 1990s. On the right chest and upper back of the jersey, and right leg of the navy bibs we acknowledge the 100th edition of Giro d’Italia with a simple printed 100 (this doubles as reflective detailing on the bibs). On the inside of the rear pockets is this year’s percorso printed across a map of Italy and a quote from Armando Cougnet, the organiser of the 1914 Giro. The final, defining element of the jersey design is to be found on the inside of the collar where all 99 winners of the Giro d’Italia to date have been printed.