Blazin' Saddles: 2018 WorldTour new kits rated and reviewed
With just one team's kit still outstanding for 2018, it's time to rate and review all the WorldTour kits for the coming season. French team Groupama-FDJ will launch their new battle rags at Paris-Nice in March – but that won't stop us sinking our critical teeth into a collection of tweaked togs that ranges from the sublime to the plain ugly, via the middle-of-the-road sartorially safe.
One thing is certain in the cycling world in 2018: blue is the new black – and, in particular, sky blue. Which is ironic given that Team Sky themselves have ditched their trademark dark kit in favour of the white offering similar to the design they trailed in last year's Tour.
In 2017, more than a third of WorldTour kits were black or contained black. But that's down to just 19% this year, with the new-look Mitchelton-Scott the sole team dressed pretty much entirely in black. Conversely, blue is on the rise: a quarter of all teams will be clad in blue, most notably the kind of turquoise baby blue made famous by Astana (and now copied by Movistar).
So, without further ado, check out all the latest kits from the WorldTour – before voting on your favourite and worst at the end of the piece.
UAE Team Emirates *
The snore-iest kit comes courtesy of UAE Team Emirates, who haven't really done anything to their jersey besides remove the black silhouette of the Abu Dhabi skyline. It's curious that the force behind Lampre's eye-catching purple and fuchsia ensemble of old could come up with something so drab. But that's perhaps how the Emirati like it: safe, corporate and dull.
Given the beauty of Fabio Aru's Italian champion's jersey last year at Astana, it's no surprise that such a furore was made when the Sardinian was pictured in a kit which merely swapped the UAE flag across the belly for its Italian counterpart.
With Cadel Evans, Philippe Gilbert, Thor Hushovd and Alessandro Ballan on their books, BMC used to be the team of world champions. Now it's as if they're simply trying to shoehorn in as many colours of the rainbow onto their patchwork quilt of a jersey by default.
Added to the traditional black and red last year was the green of co-sponsor Tag Heuer, while this year the arrival of cyber security firm Sophos has heralded a bright blue v-neck collar and a bum-bag effect across the shorts in the same questionable blue. Chuck in Greg van Avermaet's Olympic gold bands and the result is a real mess. Sack the stylist!
With the mining giant Orica jumping ship, owner Gerry Ryan has had to dig into his own pockets and provide a new lead sponsor in Mitchelton – his vineyard, hotel and luxury spa. Scott remains – and is perhaps responsible for the objectionable bogey green shoulders and collars that adorn this otherwise drab black number.
The only thing it has going for it is the lack of black elsewhere in the peloton this year; at least Mitchelton-Scott riders will stand out. Although, judging by the above tweet, not everyone agrees with this scathing assessment.
Dimension Data **
It came as no surprise that the addition of Deloitte as co-sponsor last year gave the Dimension Data kit a more corporate feel – more like one of those free sportive jerseys you get in the post than the stylist Juventus-inspired MTN-Qhubeka togs of old. This updated version – with less black and more green – is no improvement.
Not only is it boring, the ill-advised cut-away v-neck collar won't suit the slenderer of the team's riders, who will probably all need a scarf – or worse: a snood – during the spring classics. Could be the closest Mark Cavendish comes to wearing green all season, mind.
Team Sky **
Having trialled riding in white during last year's Tour, Team Sky have now done away entirely of their old black kit in favour of this almost transparent offering, which will make any wet rides look like a wet t-shirt competition. The blue-boob-tube-on-white perhaps unfortunately mirrors the colours of the Ventolin brand of asthma inhalers – but at least Sky have had the sense to pair the vanilla jersey with classic black shorts.
The dot-dash data pattern remains on parts of the top, while a central blue line runs along the spine of the jersey, with riders' surnames appearing across the back (for how long, it remains to be seen – didn't IAM Cycling unsuccessfully toy with this idea?). It's hard not to conclude that things have gone downhill for Sky since they swapped Rapha for Castelli.
Formerly the fashion dons of the peloton, Movistar have come up with this underwhelming – and borderline offensive – monstrosity as the team realigns itself to its sponsor's new look and rebranding. Gone, sadly, is the dark blue kit with the eye-catching green M. And while a white M stays put, it's on an Astana-lite baby blue background, with a heavily pixelated fade into the navy shorts.
Mikel Landa thought he'd left Astana a few years ago – but blur his eyes in front of the mirror and he's back once again. While this effort from Endura is disappointing, it's hard to apportion blame given it's the dog that must wag the tail. It's hardly the team's fault that their sponsor has changed their colours and logo – and when paired with Canyon bikes adorned with the same colour scheme, this one may be a slow-burner.
Lotto Soudal **
This one divides opinion. On first look, from head on, it recalls the classic Faema jersey of old. But it's a kit which looks less convincing side on or from behind, with the messy addition of multi-coloured bubbles of varying sizes across pockets just plain odd.
AG2R-La Mondiale ***
Gone are the brown and celeste diamond pattern and asymmetrically coloured sleeves, replaced by large blocks of the same colour in a retro-style kit that's an improvement, but still leaves a lot to be desired.
Complaining about the browness of AG2R-La Mondiale is like feeling let down by the wetness of water. But there needs to be a limit – and this otherwise promising step in the right direction was a missed opportunity, quite simply because black shorts would have looked so much better. Instead, it recalls some kind of toxic iced lolly – a Zoom gone wrong, a Fab without the sprinkles, a raspberry Mini-Milk dipped in chocolate.
With the partnership with new lead sponsor Groupama (an insurance company formerly known as Gan – remember them?!) not coming into effect until March 2018, FDJ's new kit will not be launched until the end of January – and won't be worn until Paris-Nice. As such, it's hard to give a genuine rating – so we'll play it safe and give them the three stars that their 2017 kit merited.
Despite the potentially hazardous green and orange Groupama logo, the team has promised to keep their patriotic red, white and blue scheme – although it remains to be seen if they do a BMC and shoehorn in too many colours. It will be interesting to see if the team settle on their shorts: last year they interchanged white and blue.
One rider who will certainly be in blue shorts is Dutchman Ramon Sinkeldam, while Frenchman Arnaud Demare will be in red: the two national champions already have their kits sorted – and the inverted flag-themed combo looks ace. Let's hope the rest of the ensemble hits similar heights.
The Russian team's jersey has seen the maroon of the shoulders drop lower, below the red Alpecin logo, to allow for a new top half which is meant to be a faint blue, but which rather looks like the grubby colour whites go when constantly put through a mixed wash with muddy football kit.
Indeed, the blue is so subtle (they call it 'coral') that it could rather be an Elephant's Breath grey. Coupled with maroon shorts and a red trim, the overall look isn't bad at all; it just may have looked better offset with a white, or a bolder blue.
Quick-Step Floors ***
The Belgian giants have opted for a slightly deeper shade of blue this year, with a simple white band across the chest and displaying the lead sponsor. The whole ensemble is balanced by a bit of yellow on the sleeves, with the designers doing the impossible and making even Lidl look classy.
Expect to see a lot of this safe-yet-strong jersey during the spring classics campaign, especially when Julian Alaphilippe or Fernando Gaviria are riding. By this showing, they already have a huge advantage over Belgian rivals Lotto Soudal.
Why should Astana's kit be rated higher than its near-identical counterpart chez Movistar? Well, for numerous reasons. Firstly, Movistar should know better; secondly, Astana are somewhat limited by the national colours of Kazakhstan, where Movistar don't have such restrictions; thirdly, the Kazakh team's black shorts are classier than Movistar's dark navy, and the jersey fade now less apparent. Finally, the yellow trim on the collar and sleeves balances the whole thing out with aplomb. "It's a very nice," as one famous non-Kazakh once often said.
Team Sunweb ****
The colours may be a little drab, but Sunweb are sticking with a winning formula – adding just a large red S onto the back of their otherwise black-and-white-and-red kit. There's not really much more to add. Sometimes simplicity trumps garish gimmickry. Although that said, this is a kit which would pair well with red shoes.
EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale ****
It's not perfect by any stretch, but this new look for a team bolstered by an entirely new lead sponsors is a perfect example of how a daring, eye-catching rebranding can really hit the bullseye. The pink shoulders are bold, the green argyle sleeves and collar are a nod to the Slipstream of old, the red Drapac logo sits nicely between EF and Cannondale, while the black waist segues effectively with the shorts (which pick up on the green on their trim).
Coupled with a pink helmet, and the whole ensemble is either a Mapei for the current era, or a garish, messy, confused monstrosity to be ridiculed. Time will tell – but for now, we like it. And so does Mitch Docker.
Bahrain Merida ****
Bright red and deep navy worked well for Bahrain Merida last year – and there are just a few tweaks this time round, with less blue on the shoulders and more on the flanks. The golden lettering and spider-wed motif (mimicking, perhaps, the obscene wealth – and sticky reach – of the nation sponsor of dubious ethical provenance) returns, this time separated by an eye-catching bright green dash, which also appears (quite successfully) around the arms and bottom of the blue shorts.
On the downside, the logo of Bapco, the new petroleum-themed co-sponsor, features on the shoulders of the otherwise A-Ok kit.
Losing the black shoulders in favour of more yellow, the Dutch team seem to have finally found the balance in their bee-inspired kit. It's simple yet affective – including a rebranded logo, an individualised lottery number ball of each rider's choice, and a yellow band around the left thigh. They perhaps shouldn't, but the colours work well with the iconic Bianchi green of the team's bikes.
Given the popularity of the team in the Netherlands, you get the impression that if the six numbered balls that appear as part of the sponsor's logo across the chest actually came up in the Lotto, the prize would be shared by millions. More likely to see Robert Gesink winning the Tour, to be fair.
Smart and simple is the order of the day as Trek-Segafredo ditch their white and red/black kits of last season in favour of this all-scarlet number, with white sponsor lettering and a subtle black pinstripe. Presumably, an 'away strip' will be worn during the Vuelta to avoid clashing with the maglia rojo – but otherwise, the Trek riders will be among the best-dressed in the peloton in 2018.
The only slight quibble are the black shorts, which despite a classy red trim, also boast a curious curved white line around the crotch area.
The daddy of the lot – and quite unexpectedly so, given whence it came. If last year's Bora kit was turgid and boring, then the 2018 version goes to show just how much value can be added with a daring revamp. The series of green, spearmint and aqua-marine triangles that fade as they point downwards, perhaps suggestively, towards the crotch, make this both jaunty and stylish.
It's retro futurism at its very best – the kind of kit that a cycling team from Stranger Things would wear – and the green trim to the black shorts completes the package with gusto. Is this the kit that will make Peter Sagan wish he wasn't world champion? Quite possibly.
Do you agree? What are your best and worst kits? Have your say below, tweet me @saddleblaze, or vote in the Twitter poll below… And remember, this is just subjective - there's no right or wrong answer. Unless you actually like the Movistar kit, that is. That would clearly be wrong.