One of the big talking points on Twitter during today’s Stage 1 of the Tour de France surrounded the fact that Team Sky’s nine riders were each wearing yellow helmets, with many interpreting it as a rather presumptuous statement of intent about Bradley Wiggins’ maillot jaune aspirations. The truth, however, is that they had to wear them after finishing yesterday’s time trial as the leaders in the team classification, due to a rule change introduced by organisers ASO this year.
The riders from the team at the top of that classification traditionally wear a yellow dossard, but ASO, or possibly Digital, which sponsors the team standings, have evidently decided that a yellow background on the race number isn’t quite enough, so now riders have to wear yellow helmets – supplied by the team, not the race organisers, which in Sky’s case means Kask lids – to make them more visible to fans.
If you’ve ever stood at the roadside of a Tour de France stage, you’ll know that as the riders approach, everyone is craning their neck to get a glimpse of the maillot jaune, the race leader; we’ve yet to meet a spectator who was disappointed because they weren’t able to work out who was topping the team classification as the peloton flashed by.
Moreover, one unintended consequence of the new rule is that it actually makes it harder to pick out the race leader himself – Fabian Cancellara was wearing a yellow helmet today to match his jersey, but at times found himself riding alongside several Team Sky riders near the front of the group.
We reckon there must have been a few Belgian kids disappointed because they couldn’t work out which one he was if he was on the far side of the road, for instance.
A quick straw poll we conducted on Twitter found 17 of road.cc's followers thought it was a bad idea, three considered it a good idea, and rather touchingly one took the trouble to tweet to say that he was indifferent about it.
If the yellow helmets weren’t a universal hit with the fans, the same goes for some of the riders according to some tweets we saw.
Christian Knees of Team Sky tweeted prior to the stage start, “I thought they were joking this morning when they told me first team in GC have to ride yellow helmets!!” his post accompanied by the picture above.
A post from Peter Kennaugh’s account – we’ll give the young Manxman the benefit of the doubt about whether he was the author, because we suspect from Isle of Man-related tweets when he is racing elsewhere that he’s not the only person who tweets from it went slightly off message, reading: “like the sky helmets were not already bad enough...”
Garmin-Sharp’s David Millar, meanwhile, spared a thought for Bradley Wiggins. With the black shorts, green jersey and yellow lid combo the Team Sky man was wearing, Millar said “Not cool that ASO made @bradwiggins look like a Liquorice Allsorts today. Not very mod.”
Wiggins, who had been wearing the maillot vert today in place of points classification leader Fabian Cancellara, will be back in a standard Team Sky jersey tomorrow, but like his eight colleagues, he’ll be sporting a yellow helmet again. Sky lead the classification by four seconds from RadioShack-Nissan.
With tomorrow’s stage likely to end in a bunch sprint, the likelihood is that they’ll be in them for a few more days yet.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.