050: The Stuff Legends are Made of.

I'm really trying to break my T-shirt habit, but these new shirts from Rapha aren't helping anything. I saw these shirts a few weeks ago and wanted to know more about them. So, when I found myself in Rapha's head office the other day, it was the first thing that I asked.

"Who do I need to talk to about these Legend Shirts?"

This was one of the people I was directed to. Graeme Raeburn was the man for the job and he helped me get all the answers that I needed while providing the background stories as well. Also, if I'm informed correctly he is a 'leg breaker' on the bike.

I was directed to two people actually. Sam Huddleston and Graeme were the go-to guys for the shirts. They also only answered my questions after explaining that it wasn't they who actually designed them, it was a designer by the name of Ultan Coyle, they just cleaned them up and made the designs really work.

The designs were based around each of the three riders kits (or strips as they are known here in the UK) and at the same time attempting to encompass the magnitude of the personalities of the three riders.

Le Professeur: Laurent Fingnon
I like this one,(I like all of them actually) and it is reminiscent of his time with Renault - Elf - Gitane. It is interesting to note that Fingnon was actually hired on the Gitane team to ride support for Mr. Hinault, another one of this Legends series.

The design, so say the designers, was meant to be a little more cut and dried with this one. A little more "clinical" I think was the word. Seems fitting for someone who's nickname was le Professeur.

"Prix Citron" is also written on the shirt and means, or lends itself to meaning "sour lemon." It also, at least in terms of the French Open is given out to the player with the "strongest character." That could mean a number of things...such as his fortitude and strength in riding, his ability to survive all odds based on character strength...or could also point to something else. Maybe a 'bitterness' in losing by eight seconds to some American that shall remain unnamed. Either way, he's still a legend.

Le Blaireau: Bernard Hinault
Blaireau means "badger" in French. Besides being one of my favorites in the animal kingdom it also adequately describes Hinault. Not only physically does his stance on the bicycle make him look kind of like a badger...his spikey hair and lips curled back into a grimace in the photo that hung over the doorway of one shop where I used to work. But, he also had a penchant for never letting go. Never letting go of his prey or opponents, which is also a characteristic of the well known animal of the same name.

This has to be my favorite of the three shirts though. With the La Vie Claire squares well represented and the tiny badger (which Sam made) replacing the bird that once sat in the corner. It must have been somewhat of a treat for the designers to work in the De Stijl style onto a shirt. Well played.

Favorite Badger story: Instead of stopping at the blockade that was put up by protesters in one Tour De France Hinault instead flicked down a few gears and charged right into the protesters. Not stopping his bike, instead speeding up, causing himself a few broken ribs and his adversaries - well, I'm sure they got quite a fright too.

De Leeuw Van Vlaanderen: Johan Museeuw
The Lion of Flanders as he was known to all. I love this shirt as well. Its Mapei roots make me smile thinking of Museeuw's grimace of sheer pain that is only made comical by the number of brightly colored baubles and boxes placed throughout his Mapei kit.

And as a side note, I've always wondered where Hup got their kit ideas. Was that a slam? I don't think so.

Favorite Lion story: This as well is one that Graeme and I talked about at Rapha HQ the other day. That Musseuw had come back from his Paris-Roubaix knee injury a couple years later to win the prestigious race, and as he entered the Velodrome (one that I'm excited to see in a couple weeks) he pointed at his knee while crossing the line. That some said he would never race again. Ha! This was a testament to the fact that this is the ultimate hard-man.

I asked why Rapha decided to go with the tshirt instead of a jersey or something a little more extravagant? As Graeme so aptly put it: *"They are the kind of shirt that you'll be wearing out someday and someone who gets it, they'll know and either come and talk to you about them, or you'll get some sort of wink or nod of acknowledgment." That's ok with me.

The other thing that we talked about. Or noticed out loud was that these articles of Rapha clothing do not carry their signature Stories. On every piece of Rapha clothing there is a little story, sometimes they are printed on tags, sometimes the inside pocket of a jersey, another one is just silk screened to the inside of a shirt. However, there was nothing hidden with the depths of these shirts.


"Well, I don't think that there are Insides Stories with these" remarked Graham. "The inside story is whether or not you know what the actual shirt is talking about. Who these characters are and what they stand for."

I think that these shirts are great. They are great artistic tributes to some cycling greats without having to plaster their faces all over everything. Which, with the exception of the Great Mario (you know the look, out the car window, huge hair), who wants to see anyway? What I'm really wondering is, are there more? Who would be next? Merckx? Tchmil? Lemond? (seems like an obvious choice given the other two and the heat between them...but would Rapha choose a...gasp...American??)

Get them here.

*these are paraphrases from a few conversations that we had, and even those I'm using "quotes" I'm using them rather loosely.