Purveyors of fine cycling threads Rapha have launched a limited edition jersey to commemorate the centenary of the Tour de France’s first visit to the Col du Tourmalet – the highest pass in the Pyrenees and perhaps the most famous climb of them all. The jersey is made from a merino-rich fabric and features a host of references to the original stage in the high mountains.
It was on 21 July 1910 – 100 years ago to the day (at the time of writing) – that the riders rode from Luchon to Bayonne; 326km (204 miles) taking in the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet, Soulor, Aubisque and Osquich. Since then the Tourmalet, which tops out at 2,115m, has been included in the Tour more than any other col, the riders heading up it twice this year.
“Parfaitement passable” embroidered across the chest and the ‘A Steines’ signature on the right sleeve refer to a message sent to Tour organiser Henri Desgrange by side-kick Alphonse Steines. In the winter before the 1910 race, Steines had been sent to check out the suitability of the Tourmalet for inclusion in the route.
“When I started researching the 1910 story, I was bowled over by it’s richness,” said jersey designer Ultan Coyle, who rode the stage himself earlier this year. “The most striking part for me was Alphonse Steines’ recce of the Tourmalet. His car could only get within 3km of the summit due to thick snow. He continued on foot regardless and ended up having to be rescued off the mountain by a search party.
“Once back to civilisation he sent the telegram to Henri Desgrange saying, ‘Crossed Tourmalet. Very good road. Perfectly passable. Steines.’ So for me the embroidered A Steines signature is what it's all about. He signed off the mountain.”
There’s a representation of the telegram inside a rear pocket too, an embroidered crest of the Hautes-Pyrénées department around the back, and on the left arm there’s an image of the statue to the early Tour de France pioneers that stands at the top of the Tourmalet.
Made from 39% merino wool and 61% polyester, the jersey feels soft and comfy next to your skin and it wicks sweat away well. It holds its shape better than pure wool too. It comes in a classic slim fit but is cut a little longer than usual at the front so you can wear it off the bike. The ribbed collar and cuffs and the metal zip give a retro feel, while a silicone gripper at the hem adds a touch of modern practicality. You get three pockets in the lower back plus a really useful inner sleeve for your mini-pump and an additional zipped pocket for your valuables.
Washing isn’t a problem: it goes through the machine just fine and you can even lob it in the dryer on a low heat.
The Tourmalet jersey ain’t cheap though: it’ll set you back £135 from www.rapha.cc.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.