The combination of late-summer high temperatures and hard mountain stages calls for the right equipment to keep riders performing at their best – and especially the right clothing.
The Vuelta a España is often the hottest race of the year and this edition is proving no exception. While the Tour de France didn’t turn out as hot as expected, the Vuelta will require Team Sky to use the full range of strategies to keep riders safe, comfortable and performing at their best. The combination of high temperatures and the exertion of a mountain stage can see riders’ sweat rates head past three litres an hour.
In such extreme conditions the technical developments that adidas have made with Team Sky’s kit become especially important, particularly those made after the team’s experience at last year’s Tour de France when the road temperature went past 40°C several times.
In 2010, the team’s partnership with adidas began with two types of short-sleeved jersey, the ‘Classics’ and the ‘Summer’. During last year’s race, Team Sky’s riders tested the first prototypes of a new mountains-specific jersey. The feedback gained from that experience plus the unique requirements of racing in the mountains have led adidas to create a jersey that the team used in the Pyrenees and Alps this year.
Along with a new road race skinsuit, the mountains jersey went through various stages of development as adidas sourced new fabrics and put the garments through wear testing. Both items were designed with adidas’ FORMOTION™ technology, which enhances and supports the rider’s natural movement because it is cut to match the curve of the body during motion. FORMOTION™ is specifically tailored for the unique motion patterns of specific sports, so long hours in the saddle, sprinting and climbing are all taken into account during testing and designing.
“It’s engineered to optimise performance and comfort, and effortlessly comfortable to wear. FORMOTION™ apparel practically becomes part of the body,” says Nelson Madlangbayan, adidas’ senior product developer. The jerseys also feature fewer seams, leading to less chafing and pressure points, while the weight of the fabric used is 85g/m2, which is significantly lower than a standard jersey at around 115g/m2.
During the research process, adidas had to balance any development ideas against the absolute requirements for the clothing to be both light and very breathable to suit hot racing conditions. As Jane Ellingworth, Team Sky’s head of apparel, explains: “We use more open fabrics in terms of their mesh structure, lightweight materials and fabric finishes that help with wicking of sweat, in other words drawing sweat away from the body to the outside of the fabric, where it can evaporate,” she says. “One other key aspect is that we wanted the jersey to reflect the heat on those points where we are using black colours.”
You’d expect dark fabrics to heat up more quickly than in direct sunlight, but the reflective treatment fabric adidas use in Team Sky’s kit reduces heat absorption, making it feel cooler to the touch. That reduces the rider’s sweat rate and can, consequently, boost performance. It also has the added advantage of protecting the wearer from harmful UV rays up to SPF 30. Handily, it’s also wash-resistant, ensuring that riders will benefit to the same extent every time they wear this state-of-the-art jersey.
adidas and Team Sky have also worked on a new bibshort to complement this high-tech jersey. The Bibshort Summer also features reduced seams to increase comfort and boost the ease of airflow and incorporates a very lightweight fabric (115g/m2), which compares with a standard bibshort fabric weight of around 200g/m2. As well as this reduction in weight, the summer bibshort offers increased breathability, which also helps to keep weight down by reducing the amount of water/sweat it will retain.