While the new year starts with yet another fresh blow to cycling – namely the departure of two decades' worth of Lampre's purple and fuschia in the pro peloton – there are some reasons to be buoyant, at least in the fashion stakes, ahead of the coming campaign.
Best kits: Bahrain Merida and Cannondale
Sure, the human rights record of their employers may make a helicopter ride with the president of the Philippines sound appealing, but the new Bahrain Merida (5/5) cycling team have certainly used their petro-dollars wisely in employing a top notch kit designer at Sportful. The result is a red, navy and gold (what else?) kit which looks pretty awesome on a triathlete's chiselled torso.
At the other end of the colour scale and giving their new rivals a run for their dollars of dubious derivation is the Argyle Army of Cannondale-Drapac (4/5) who return with a slightly tweaked version of their like-it-or-loath-it electric green Marmite offering, updated by new kit partner Poc (of Ryder Hesjedal sunglasses fame). Eye-catchingly suave red socks stand out against the two-tone green and are echoed in the logos of co-sponsors which include New Balance (inspiration for Pierre Rolland on the descents).
Worst kits: UAE-Abu Dhabi and Quick-Step Floors
Seeing that they only just decided what they were going to be called the other day, there are grounds to forgive UAE-Abu Dhabi (1/5) for their bland monstrosity. After all, the word on the street is that the proposed TJ-Sport kit would have blown the rest of the peloton out of the water. Instead, team UAE-Abu Dhabi pissed on the purple and pink grave of Lampre-Merida by ringing in the Dimension Data work experience designer on his lunch break. The result has about as much oomph as a Robin Reliant stuck in neutral.
If UAE-Abu Dhabi at least had a tight deadline and relative inexperience running against them then there can be no such excuses for Quick-Step Floors (2/5) who seem to have disposed of their Etixxness by doing their best to rip off the Wanty-Groupe Gobert kit from 2014 with this noisy, lighter blue number – blander than eating airline food to elevator music while watching snooker in a pair of chinos.
Woah, that's different kits: Astana and Trek-Segafredo
Doing their utmost best to bringing the two-tone fade back into fashion, Astana (3.5/5) have clearly had enough with uncompromising podium photos and have done away with the baby blue shorts. But instead of a stark line between shorts and jersey, the Kazakh retro-metamodernist trailblazers have opted for the turquoise-to-black fade that recalls some kind of pH test from a physics classroom. What this bodes for Frankie, Michele Scarponi's pet parrot, is unclear. Let's just hope it doesn't involve his hind quarters being caught up in an oil spill. Final question: will the fade be incorporated into any leaders' jerseys?
We thought it was merely a farewell gift from Trek-Segafredo (4/5) to Fabian Cancellara but it seems that the bright yellow look will return in 2017 for the outfit formerly known as Team Cappuccino. At least, when the riders are training, that is. The actual race kit has yet to be released – and the worry is that any return to the regular black-and-white combo will pale in comparison to the radiant fluorescent marker pen look. Watch this space – through a pair of sunglasses.
Comfort zone kits: Ag2R-La Mondiale, FDJ, Movistar and Orica-Scott
The barrage of abuse Ag2R-La Mondiale (3/5) has had to endure at times regarding the questionable colour of their bib shorts has resulted in – what do you know – the French team introducing yet more brown to their kit. This time it's just the collar; otherwise it's business as usual for Romain Bardet's team.
Also in ultra-conservative France, any seismic sartorial changes that elsewhere could have been spawn by the advent of a new kit supplier have been put to bed for FDJ (3/5) who return with their usual red, white and blue number despite swapping B'Twin with Alé. The whiteness and unfortunate position of a seam means FDJ riders lucky enough to mount the podium will continue to do so with the ubiquitous camel toe and trouser snake on display.
Why change a winning formula, say the team that have paired up Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde for the past 20-odd Grand Tours. Endura's new Movistar (3/5) kit hasn't changed much save for a slightly jauntier M across the front and back. It's nice and classic, but hardly something to write home about.
Once again, the Spanish team's kit is not to be confused with the new yet still very similar offering from Orica-Scott (3/5). Although there are some subtle differences: most obvious is the exchange of, er, Bike Exchange with Scott as co-sponsor, bringing to the table not so much a bright green as a puke yellow band, which runs along the right flank too. It's nice and classic, but hardly something to write home about.
Hasn't changed at all kit: Lotto Soudal
Correct us if we're wrong, but as far as we can see, Lotto Soudal (4/5) have returned with exactly the same kit as last year – replacing only their shoulder sponsor of Joker to Caps (in CAPS not lower case). The message is clear: we're Belgium and, like the beer, do exactly what it says on the tin.
Back to black (and ballsy) kits: LottoNL-Jumbo
The Dutch team LottoNL-Jumbo (2.5/5) have done away with the white chest and shoulder panels – probably at the request of Steven Kruijwijk, who's no doubt still haunted by that wall of ice which floored his Giro chances last May. Also giving away to black is the formerly red collar, while the whole waspish ensemble is given added pique by the addition of those spearmint Bianchis. There's one thing we'd like to know though: has anyone ever bought a winning lottery ticket with those numbers?
Jury's still out kits: Team Sunweb, Alpecin-Katusha, BMC and Dimension Data
With Alpecin jumping ship to Katusha, Team Sunweb (3/5) get their red streak from the new title sponsor in an all-round coherent ensemble when paired with the riders' Giant bikes. It looks a bit basic at first but something tells us that this may be a grower. As for the WirSind in the hashtag, it means "We Are" in German... Now didn't IAM get in hot water for that kind of thing?
Also matching their kits and bikes with aplomb is team Katusha-Alpecin (4/5), who may have nicked their rivals' stash of caffeine shampoo but see the logo of their new sponsor somewhat lost in the existing red of their kit and Canyon steeds. Although it could well look better with black shorts, it's still quite a classy kit – and ideal, we're told, for conquering the field (if that's your kind of thing).
Meanwhile, the trademark red and black of BMC (2.5/5) now looks like a collage gone wrong with the violent copying and pasting job of the logo of new co-sponsor Tag Hueur onto the sleeves. Time may be of the essence, but there's something not right with the addition of green and white to what has been one of cycling's tried and tested staples – although it may eventually make us tick.
Also introducing a bit of green to their safe but borderline drab kit is Dimension Data (3/5). Blackening out the top half certainly makes the kit look less like a Deloitte powerpoint presentation while the green – perhaps a nod to Mark Cavendish's former Tour de France aspirations – does round things off and bring in some much needed colour. We're still undecided on this one, though.
WTF kits: Team Sky
It's jumping the shark somewhat attempting to weave a narrative into a new kit with lines of varying colours and lengths supposedly representing past victories in different races. Contrary to earlier suggestions, Casertelli's Morse coded kit for Team Sky (2/5) never told us what was in the jiffy bag. All in all, it amounts to a huge effort and convoluted backstory for something which, once the races start, will be entirely lost to the cameras and fans back home. And the less the said about the turquoise training kit, the better...
Kits of indifference: Bora-Hansgrohe
Peter Sagan's new team have stuck to black but have ditched the red patches in favour of pale blue dots on the lower front and upper back of the jersey, and all over the shorts outside the chammy zone. It's less Bora-Hansgrohe (1/5) and more Boring-Fans (D'oh!).
The result is more than a bit meh – unless you're Sagan and you can show off the resplendent rainbow stripes while being spared the dotted shorts in the process. Come to think of it, Sagan's world champion's kit (5/5) is the pick of the bunch this season – fittingly sported by just the one rider, and the best one at that.