Giro d'Italia

Sewing a custom pink jersey for injured Contador

Claudio Castellano sewed a custom pink jersey to accommodate Alberto Contador's injured shoulder

Claudio Castellano cut and spliced, borrowing bits of pink from other jerseys, building custom panels, sewing well into the night until he finally had what he was looking for: a jersey that would allow Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) to put on and take off the maglia rosa without lifting his left arm.

On Thursday, race leader Contador stood on the Giro d’Italia podium as a beacon of pity, not triumph. His right hand clutched the maglia rosa, earned with an attack on the previous stage, while his left hung limp, bound tightly and covered in ice. Just minutes after a high-speed crash had dislocated the Spaniard’s left shoulder, he struggled to crack a smile for the crowd; he waved the jersey in their direction before quickly sweeping off the podium and into a waiting team car.

A half-hearted podium presentation and a leader who can’t don pink? That simply won’t do. Not at the Giro.

Castellano, a jovial Napolitano normally in charge of pressing the correct sponsor logos onto leader’s jerseys bound for the podium ceremony, spent four hours Thursday evening ensuring that Contador would be able to easily slip in and out of the maglia rosa.

“I took pieces from a few jerseys to make it,” Castellano explained at the finish of Friday’s stage.

The zipper is from a long sleeve, from a full-zip jersey. The front panels are custom, adjusted to conform to the new zipper and different arm shape.

There are numerous small changes, too, like “a little flap under the zipper” Castellano had to make to prevent the zipper from rubbing Contador’s skin.

When he’s not taking charge over the Giro leader’s jerseys each May, Castellano is a professional tailor. He’s a proud native of Naples, where he plies his trade. It’s a region that prides itself on a by-the-bootstraps attitude, getting done what needs to get done, he said.

Castellano’s family has deep ties to the Giro. He’s a relative of Carmine Castellano, who ran the race for 14 years, from 1992 to 2005. The younger Castellano has always played the same role: pressing logos on each leader’s jersey, every day for three weeks.

He’ll surely be back next year, and the year after that. As the Giro organizers learned this week, it’s handy to have a tailor on tour.