04 August 2022

The story of the rainbow jersey

There are few more instantly recognisable jersey designs in cycling, but just what is the rainbow jersey, and why do riders wear it?

The UCI rainbow jersey

The rainbow jersey, rainbow bands or rainbow stripes.

Whatever you call it, this iconic uniform pulled over the heads of every UCI World Champion brings with it respect and admiration from riders, professional and amateur, across the globe.

But just what even is the rainbow jersey?

Let’s go back to the start!

 

Why a rainbow jersey?

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI for short) is the governing body of cycling, and in 1922 organised the UCI Track World Championships where the rainbow jersey had its debut.

Just as the Tour de France has its yellow jersey (for the rider with the quickest time overall) the UCI created a distinctive uniform to be awarded to the winners of each event at the 1922 UCI Track World Championships.

The rainbow jersey was born!

Signed rainbow jerseys from the 2021 UCI Road World Championships
Rainbow jerseys signed by champions from the 2021 UCI Road World Championships.

What is the rainbow jersey?

The rainbow jersey hasn’t changed much since back then.

It’s still mostly white with 5 horizontal stripes across the front and back – blue, red, black, yellow and green from top to bottom. Instantly recognisable on tracks and trails, rhythm sections and roads.

Why these colours?

Well, these are the same colours as the Olympic flag as imagined by Baron de Coubertin in 1913, with each representing the five continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and America!

 

Who gets to wear the rainbow jersey?

At every UCI World Championship those who come in first place are awarded the jersey.

The winners are then allowed to wear the rainbow jersey in competition for the next full year, but only in the discipline they won it for.

So for example, Filippo Ganna [ITA] who won the Men Elite Individual Time Trial at the 2021 UCI Road World Championships, can’t wear his jersey in road races, as the Men Elite Road Race that year was won by Julian Alaphilippe [FRA].

 

Pauline Ferrand-Prévot
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot celebrates another rainbow jersey to add to her collection!

When are the jerseys awarded?

The rainbow jersey can only be won at a UCI World Championship. These happen every year across every discipline, with each championship taking place in a different location.

However, in 2023 13 UCI World Championships will be brought together in one location in Glasgow, and across Scotland for the inaugural 2023 UCI Cycling Worlds.

We’ll be crowning over 190 champions with this distinctive jersey all across Scotland so you’ll have plenty of chances to see one in the flesh!

 

Why do some riders have rainbow stripes on their sleeves?

While only the current UCI World Champion can wear the full rainbow jersey in the year after their victory, previous winners are allowed to wear the rainbow bands on the sleeves of their jerseys to show their previous triumph!

 

Julian Alaphilippe takes the crowds applause in Flanders
A rockstar-like reception awaited recently crowned Men Elite Road Race UCI World Champion Julian Alaphilippe in Flanders last year!
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot

Fun fact!

Not many riders become UCI World Champions across different disciplines, but it is possible! For example Marianne Vos has taken the rainbow jersey in Road, Track and Cyclo-cross.

However, France’s Pauline Ferrand-Prévot became this first ever person to hold three titles across three disciplines in the same season - in 2015.

A new page in the history of the rainbow jersey was written when she claimed the rainbow jersey in Road, Cyclo-cross and Mountain Bike.

What a legend!

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