The Tour of California peloton is sporting the season’s latest styles

It wouldn’t be California without sizing up everyone’s appearance, so here is one observer’s take on the new-for-2008 designs unveiled at this year’s Amgen Tour of California. With all the problems our sport has faced over the last few years, perhaps it’s no wonder why so many teams — BMC, Quick Step, Jelly Belly, High Road and CSC — have chosen a wholesome white background for their kits.

Even before Easter, much of the peloton is wearing white

By Neal Rogers

TOC Fashion Watch: Millar's national champion's kit

TOC Fashion Watch: Millar’s national champion’s kit

Photo: Andy Pemberton

It wouldn’t be California without sizing up everyone’s appearance, so here is one observer’s take on the new-for-2008 designs unveiled at this year’s Amgen Tour of California.

With all the problems our sport has faced over the last few years, perhaps it’s no wonder why so many teams — BMC, Quick Step, Jelly Belly, High Road and CSC — have chosen a wholesome white background for their kits.

Other standout mostly white kits include the national champions’ uniforms of German champ Fabian Wegmann, British champ David Millar and U.S. champ Levi Leipheimer (which of course he swapped for the yellow leader’s jersey following Wednesday’s stage).

The retro look is also in — again — as evidenced by the Evil Knievel stars-and-stripes of Leipheimer’s champion kit (Come to think of it, Knievel, may he rest in peace, may have contributed as much to pop fashion as he did to extreme sports. There’s a thesis in this idea for someone).

TOC Fashion Watch: Levi's national champion's kit

TOC Fashion Watch: Levi’s national champion’s kit

Photo: Andy Pemberton

Other retro elements in the peloton include the 70’s surfer T-shirt lettering on High Road’s jersey and Rock Racing’s foam trucker caps. All that’s missing is a team sporting bell bottom tracksuits.

Oh, wait, Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast riders showed up to Friday’s team presentation sporting form-fitting, all-green jumpsuits.

High Road Sports

TOC Fashion Watch: Hincapie at the sign-in

TOC Fashion Watch: Hincapie at the sign-in

Photo: Andy Pemberton

When High Road first unveiled its 2008 kits, it was an all-black affair with red and yellow lettering that looked vaguely out of the Performance Bicycle clearance rack. Given the teams’ strict anti-doping philosophy, I was surprised they hadn’t gone with white —pure as the driven snow, and all. But prior to the team’s official presentation last week the black jerseys had given way to white, while the black shorts and Ocean Pacific-style font remained. It’s simple and straightforward, even if it doesn’t immediately say “world class cycling team.”

Slipstream-Chipotle

I never thought I would long for last year’s blue-and-orange argyle pattern on white, but this year’s Slipstream kit is a bit over the top. Funny thing is, the team invited fans to design the 2008 kit, with five selected finalists to be voted on. However Slipstream didn’t end up using the winning design, instead pointing to the fine print and using the winning designer.
Too bad, I liked the winning design better.

Rock Racing

TOC Fashion Watch: Freddie's Rock Racing garb

TOC Fashion Watch: Freddie’s Rock Racing garb

Photo: Jon James

The Oakland Raiders of this year’s pro peloton. I’ll give Rock credit — their kits certainly stand out, even if they do look like intergalactic pirates emerging from a vat of radioactive waste (or like a store-bought kids’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Halloween costume, as VeloNews.Com senior editor Charles Pelkey says). I personally don’t care for their kits, but I have to say, when you see their matching lime green-and-black kits, De Rosa bikes and team Escalades at once, the whole ensemble comes together. It’s Rock, dude.

Toyota-United

When Toyota-United first submitted its jersey design to USA Cycling in late 2005, the federation asked them to make a few subtle changes, claiming the stars-and-stripes motif infringed too closely on the U.S. national champion’s jersey. This year’s jersey is nearly identical to last year’s, and Toyota still looks like a collection of U.S. national champions — even if there’s not one American on its California squad. Still, you can’t go wrong with the red, white and blue.

TOC Fashion Watch: CSC

TOC Fashion Watch: CSC

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Team CSC

Gone is the red and black of CSC kits of years past, replaced by a new white top with red highlights, and black shorts. A closer look reveals that several colors fade into an amalgamation of riders’ signatures. I liked last year’s classic CSC kit better.

TOC Fashion Watch: BMC

TOC Fashion Watch: BMC

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

BMC

Like CSC, BMC has moved from a red background to white. The white jersey — with its minimalist sponsor logos and black sleeves — almost resembles old-school baseball uniforms. It’s clean and classy, but it doesn’t exactly pop, either.

Astana

I wasn’t a fan of last year’s Astana kits, which looked a little too much like Easter eggs. Working within the color scheme of Kazakhstan’s national colors, this year’s kit, which incorporates more white than last year, is an improvement. But man, Levi’s national champion kit — now that is cool.

TOC Fashion Watch: Bissell

TOC Fashion Watch: Bissell

Photo: Jon James

Bissell

This red, white and black (carbon weave) kit is one of the classier of the peloton. Maybe I’m impartial — VeloNews team kit colors are also red, white and black — but everything Bissell is running, from its Bell helmets and Giro sunglasses to Pinarello Prince bikes, matches perfectly. Bravo.

TOC Fashion Watch: Health Net-Maxxis

TOC Fashion Watch: Health Net-Maxxis

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

Health Net-Maxxis

Going against the grain, Health Net has changed its white background from 2007 to black. Otherwise it’s not a dramatic departure, but it looks slightly more sinister. I dig it.

Jelly Belly

Yet another switch to white — although the team’s kits were white in 2005 before changing to lime green and white in 2006 and a deeper lime green last year. New for 2008 is the placement of the Sport Beans logo in place of the previously more prominent Jelly Belly logo. Several people have told me they don’t like the multi-colored jellybeans all over the jersey, but they don’t bother me at all. Actually, I like ‘em

Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast

With its green and yellow colors, this Minneapolis-based team kind of has that whole Green Bay Packers, scrappy underdog thing going. Though it’s not much different than last year, with just a little blue added in the mix, the KBS-Medifast kit is different than any other teams’.

ProTour teams Bouygues Telecom, Crédit Agricole, Gerolsteiner, Saunier Duval-Scott and Rabobank have, more or less, the same team kits they’ve had for years. Sure, maybe there’s a different sponsor logo here or there, but they haven’t changed much. I’ve always been a fan of Gerolsteiner’s bubbling water shades-of-blue motif, and the others each stand out with their dominant greens, yellows or oranges. Although, I have to say, I think after last year’s Tour de France, maybe it was time for Rabobank to change things up a little.

Quick Step-Innergetic

Quick Step is another team that opted for a white background with blue accents, as modeled here by tom Boonen on the left. It departs from last year’s solid blue design with elements of white and gray. I like it, although that white is going to get pretty dirty during the Belgian classics.

TOC Fashion Watch: Boonen and Bettini

TOC Fashion Watch: Boonen and Bettini

Photo: Andy Pemberton

What is my favorite outfit at this year’s Tour of California? Well, other than Rock Racing’s podium girls, who look good in anything they’re wearing (and really have to be seen to be believed), I’m going to go with world champion Paolo Bettini, shown here on the right. He’s got the coolest all-white kit in the peloton, and as the saying goes, rainbow stripes never go out of style.

Click through the gallery below to see all the new uniforms mentioned in this column.

Photo Gallery