The Rainbow jersey is the distinctive jersey
worn by the reigning world champion
in a cycle racing
discipline. The jersey is predominantly white with five horizontal bands in the UCI colours around the chest. From the bottom up the colours are: green, yellow, black, red and blue; the same colours that appear in the rings on the Olympic flag
A world champion must wear the jersey when competing in the same discipline, category and speciality for which the title was won. For example, the world road race champion would wear the garment while competing in stage races (except for time trial stages) and one-day races, but would not be entitled to wear it during time trials. Similarly, on the track, the world individual pursuit champion would only wear the jersey when competing in other individual pursuit events.
In team events, such as the team pursuit, each member of the team must wear the rainbow jersey, but – again – would not wear it while racing in, say, points races or other track disciplines.
The rainbow jersey helps make a world champion easier to spot for spectators, but it also has the effect of making the title-holder more visible to other competitors, particularly in road racing situations. This can be a disadvantage as it makes it more difficult for the world champion to launch an attack, while other riders will quickly seek to take advantage if they notice the rainbow jersey crashes or suffers a mechanical or other problem. There is also reduced space for sponsors’ logos on the world champion’s jerseys; however, the increased media coverage of a reigning world champion probably offsets the effects of the smaller logo space.
Failure to wear the rainbow jersey where required carries a penalty of 2500 to 5000 Swiss francs.
After the end of a rider’s championship year, they are eligible to wear piping in the same rainbow pattern on the collar and cuffs of their jersey. They retain this right for the remainder of their career, and like the jersey it can only be worn in the same discipline and speciality in which the title was won.
If the holder of a rainbow jersey becomes leader of a multi-stage race (such as the Tour de France) then the leader’s jersey (Yellow jersey) for that race takes precedence. Similarly, the leader’s jerseys for UCI World Cup series also take precedence over the rainbow jersey, although, in 2006, Road Race World Champion Tom Boonen at one point was the leader of the Road Racing World Cup, and he, as well as his sponsor and the organizers of the race he was competing in at that time (Gent-Wevelgem) wanted him to continue wearing the rainbow jersey. A compromise was reached and Boonen wore a jersey which was a combination of the Rainbow jersey and the UCI World Cup jersey.
Curse of the Rainbow Jersey
The Curse of the Rainbow Jersey is a popular term to refer to the phenomenon where cyclists who have become World Champion often suffer from poor luck the next year – though, in some cases, the ‘bad luck’ was brought on by their own actions.
Tom Simpson (UK) won the world title in 1965. During the following winter (Jan/Feb 1966) he broke his leg skiing thus missing out on his most lucrative benefits from wearing the rainbow jersey.
Other notable ‘victims’ of the curse include the 1970 world champion Jean-Pierre Monseré who died wearing the rainbow jersey in March 1971 and Laurent Brochard, the world champion of 1997, who became involved in a doping scandal a year later.
The 1990 winner, Rudy Dhaenens of Belgium, had no results in 1991, and was forced to retire shortly after with heart problems. He was killed in a car accident six years later at the age of 36.
The 1994 winner, Luc Leblanc of France had a injury plagued following season with very poor results, winning only one small race, before bouncing back in 1996.
The 2003 winner, Spaniard Igor Astarloa, switched to the French team Cofidis for the 2004 season which almost immediately suspended itself from racing due to doping allegations against several members of the team. In response to this, Astarloa switched first to the Lampre team, and then the Barloworld team. He has had a very quiet career since his 2003 victory.
The 2004 World Road Champion Óscar Freire was in good form throughout the spring, but developed a saddle sore mid-season that ended his hopes for a second consecutive title on home turf in Spain.
In August 2004 British professional cyclist David Millar was suspended for two years by British Cycling, stripped of his 2003 World Time Trial Championship jersey, and given a $1,600 fine, after confessing to the use of EPO in 2001 and 2003.
On 24 September 2006, Italian Paolo Bettini won the Rainbow Jersey in the World Road Race Championship in Salzburg, Austria. Eight days later on 2 October his older brother Sauro died when his car struck an obstacle and overturned into a ditch. He also had a few accidents in the beginning of 2007 season (Tirreno-Adriatico 2007) and technical problems (in E3-Prijs Vlaandereren his chain snapped).
On November 26, 2006, while wearing the Rainbow jersey of World Madison Champion, Isaac GálvezSix Days of Ghent, following a horrific crash into the upper barrier surrounding the indoor track. died during the