On Friday 31st July British Cycling and adidas celebrated 10 years of a hugely successful partnership together with the launch of this season's British Cycling kit. Total Women’s Cycling joined British Cycling’s technical director, Shane Sutton, in the company of GB cyclists Laura Trott, Jo Rowsell and Elinor Barker to celebrate.
First worn during the races of the Ride London weekend, we had the opportunity to take a first look at the new adidas-developed British Cycling range beforehand and gain some technical insights from Nelson Madlangbayan, head of adidas Cycling products.
The inspiration for this season’s kit took hold when Madlangbayan was sitting in a seat in an aeroplane overlooking the wing. The approach to the kit was to combine a time trial suit and a classics jersey. As you can well imagine, designing a high performance piece of garment with the aerodynamics of the wing of an aeroplane in mind was quite a challenge.
The shoulder area, which Madlangbayan refers to as the bolero, specifically uses stretchy materials that contour across both broad and narrow shoulders. He notes that in addition, the elastic on the sleeves ensures they are kept smooth and tort thus maximising the aerodynamics whilst still contributing to the style and comfort of the kit. The front panel, which Madlangbayan refers to as the air cooling or comfort area, focusses on improved air conditioning and moisture transport.
Quite unique in their design, the shorts are made using one piece of material, and as a result they have fewer seams, less wind resistance and are a better fit. According to Madlangbayan, they were ‘a nightmare for the development team … initially the pattern engineers didn't believe we could do it’, but after much perseverance and a huge drive to succeed thankfully they got there.
It’s worth noting, of course, that Great Britain has a team of cyclists of all shapes and sizes, from endurance to sprinters to BMXer’s and everything in between. The notion of using one piece of fabric to make the shorts and developing a bolero that contours the fit of the shoulders sounds quite straight forward, but becomes a little bit tricky when you have to match a Laura Trott to a Chris Hoy with what is essentially the same pattern of garment! Developing a pattern to suit everyone and to look good in the process is quite an accomplishment.
Sat in the company of two Olympic champions, Joanna Rowsell and Laura Trott, Sutton highlights that ‘these people don’t achieve success through not being critical; they want the best and they will question us 24/7’. The team play a major role in the development of the kit. Tested in all conditions, to include extreme temperatures from -20 to +40/50 adidas continually rely on the feedback from the athletes and coaches to improve each garment.
Obviously there is a comfort element to it’ Sutton continues ‘but there is a major performance element to it and we need these people to continue to go into the tunnels and to test all the kit on a regular basis to get what we are looking for; To get the fastest suit in the world.
‘Everything we do is evidence based and the numbers don’t lie’ Sutton points out. ‘We believe that with our relationship with adidas and how it has evolved over the last 10 years; no one can match us … We know that we have got the best supplier in adidas in the world, we produce the best suits in the world and once again’ Sutton says confidently ‘it will give us a big benefit going into Rio’ next year.
Once asked if the riders could exchange jerseys much the same way as footballers do following a match, Sutton explains that he ‘wasn't having a bar of it … The thing is, I believe we have got the best kit in the world and people basically want to get the kit to go away and see what fabric we are using and what the cut is …. It’s very important to us that we maintain that expertise in house. So the jersey swapping is a big no-no basically.’
On the design, Madlangbayan notes that this is far more edgy than last years’ more stable version. The inspiration behind the current design is that of ‘electrified performance’ and the idea of lightning bolts and their associated energy and explosive power. The design and graphics should be a representation of what you feel whilst wearing that kit … ‘I feel powerful, I feel electrified and I will do my very best on this day!’
Sutton later turned his attention to Trott and asks how she felt when she first wore the GB kit.
‘I was a junior at the time, I was scared actually … It’s a big deal isn’t it, representing GB for the first time’
Sutton reminisced about the first time he worked with Trott 'from a performance point of view’ he reflects ‘I remember watching Laura ride… and at that particular time I did say ‘this girl needs more power; She is very good but she needs more power’. You found that power; you are double Olympic champion and the rest is pretty much history … It’s a big moment putting on your first kit. It’s a massive thing"
Madlangbayan finishes with a few key words highlighting that it’s not only the athletes that are striving to be the best they can be. ‘We at adidas appreciate’ when athletes are critical as the more critical they are the better we become. ‘We constantly strive to improve’.
It seems that this common goal has proven to be the basis of a very successful relationship and here at Total Women’s Cycling we cannot wait to see what’s in store, both for Rio and years ahead.