Cycle clothing brand Rapha, the new supplier of clothing and other kit to Team Sky, has started launching its range of technical and leisure clothing and accessories on its website, and concerns that it would be priced way beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest fans have been headed off by the smart tactic of introducing three different ranges - one Pro Team spec, and at prices reflecting those of other garments from the brand, another at a lower price point and termed Replica, and a third Supporters range that is cheaper still.
That's not to say that Rapha's looking to fob fans off with the latter - the fact is, it's usually near impossible to get hold of kit identical to what the pros actually wear, so replica jerseys you can buy for other teams, or for Sky itself when it was supplied by Adidas, are replicas rather than the real thing.
And Rapha's replica Sky jerseys cost £75, compared to the Adidas replica which was at £70 (although it could be found for less). But if it's just showing the colours you want to do, rather than a garment specifically for riding any distance, Supporters jerseys are also available - and they are just £40.
Even for a brand that prides itself on its marketing, it's a shrewd move - the higher spec jersey, which costs £140, keeps brand purists happy too, or at least those who might consider wearing kit from a team they don't actually ride for.
Other products range from men's and women's bibshorts at £170 a pop - that's the Pro Team versions - to a "supporters' scarf" for £15
The irony of that female-specific kit won't be lost on some of Britain's top women riders - Lizzie Armitstead is among those who have previously called for Sky to launch a women's team. Besides a dedicated women's range, there is also a kid's range and a full suite of accessories.
Here's a description of the ranges in Rapha's own words:
Creating a total of 60 new Team Sky products for 2013, the Rapha offering will allow riders and supporters of all levels to show their favor for Team Sky, the number one team in the world in 2012:
Pro-Team: At the highest level, riders will be able to wear exactly what the Team Sky riders will wear to race and train in 2013, keeping the same design, fit and performance from the peloton. The Pro-Team offer includes a mix of jerseys, bibs, jackets, merino, and accessories.
Replica: For the rider wanting the look but who doesn’t require the complete pro-performance or price tag. The Replica offer includes women’s and kid’s and “Wiggo” emblazoned jerseys.
City Wear & Supporter: Created to dress the riders and staff of Team Sky, the offering for supporters ranges from new gingham check colors of the Rapha Long Sleeve Shirt, Rapha Jeans, T-shirts, and supporters scarves and flags. A standout new product in this offer is the ‘Supporters Jersey’, a top that has the look of the team but with a cut meant to pair with jeans for off-the-bike.
The Pro Jersey (£140) is said to be the same as the one the pros will be wearing this year, made from the same technical fabric with race radio cable loops and mesh side panels. It uses what Rapha call 'coldblack' technology, the dyestuff being designed to absorb less heat than usual to stay cool against the skin.
The Pro Bib Shorts come with an EIT (Elastic Interface Technology)/Cytech seatpad, have a permanent wicking treatment, and are priced at £170.
The Replica Bib Shorts - the next level down - are £100. Or you can pay £105 for a version with GB National Champion stripes - won by Ian Stannard in 2012 - or the Norwegian National Champion's version, as worn by Edvald Boasson Hagen.
The Supporter range contains items like a Team Sky Merino Hoody (£140), and a Merino Hat (£35). The Team Sky Jeans are £150 - the same price as Rapha's usual jeans upon which they are clearly modelled. Many of the products in the range are existing Rapha designs with the addition of Team Sky's logos and blue highlights.
It's the same deal with the Team Sky Belt, for example (yes, of course there's a Team Sky Belt). Rapha already do a black/pink version. Now they do a black/blue Team Sky version. They cost the same at £70. It’s made for Rapha by high-end Italian brand Anderson’s.
The leather Team Sky Grand Tour gloves are more expensive than the existing Rapha ones, though - they're £120 rather than £100.
The complete collection comes available mid‐February online at Rapha.cc and at Rapha Cycle Club stores in London, San Francisco, and Osaka. Riders and fans in the UK will be able to buy the complete Rapha Team Sky collection at all Evans Cycles locations and online at evanscycles.com too.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.