A professional cycling team with its own clothing brand is a shrewd move. Precious information from a winning WorldTour team is a winning formula.
However, Katusha’s riders had no idea why they were getting a barrage of questions.
“Honestly, at first we didn’t know that they wanted to do this project,” Joaquim Rodriguez says, smiling. “They were asking questions for two years for information about our kit, what was best.”
The secret was revealed in a post-season 2015 winter meeting and a brain trust of Katusha riders was assembled to test prototypes, including Rodriguez, Classics star Alexander Kristoff, Jurgen van den Broeck and Marco Haller.
They trained with range at home, perfecting the summer and winter kit. The latter was especially useful for Haller, who hails from the chilly city of Klagenfurt.
It gave the former Austrian champion a welcome outlet for his creativity. “I really felt like I needed to do something else [other than cycling], get my head a little bit on another topic. This was something I was really waiting for.”
Katusha’s WorldTour riders stipulated exactly what they wanted, from comfort and material to positioning of leg grips and shorts. “There is nothing more annoying when a bib is not in the place it should be,” Haller says.
The end final result was three Katusha Sports cycling clothing lines: ‘Essential’, the flamboyant ‘Beyond’ and ‘Breakaway’, tested, inspired and modelled by the WorldTour team’s riders themselves.
Katusha’s entire Tour de France team donned the latter clothing range for a rest day pedal around Berne during the 2016 race. Joaquim Rodriguez even pedalled up a grass bank for an impromptu bit of cyclo-cross fun to much laughter, not a thread out of place.
“It’s light, well-fitting, breathable and the colours aren’t overloaded. I think we’ve done it perfectly,” Rodriguez said later.
The material used by Katusha Sports is the hyper-wicking 37.5 – the human body is apparently most efficient when working at said core temperature – with Schoeller fabrics, a mesh which dries fast and absorbs liquid and sweat, regulating body temperature.
“I was really surprised by one of the first kits we tested. Even though it wasn’t a really hot day, you immediately saw some salt in the jersey, which means it’s transporting liquid super good,” Haller says.
Maybe this is the first step on Marco Haller’s path to being the next Paul Smith. “Why not? I’m really having fun helping them and creating something.
“You need intelligent staff in the background too, but getting knowledge from a professional cyclist who’s spent 35,000 kilometres a year on the bike – I think that’s also worth a lot.”
Katusha Sports clothing is available at the Rouleur shop.