Rapha founder and CEO Simon Mottram says that last year’s collaboration with skateboard brand Palace Skate for a one-off kit for EF Education First for the Giro d’Italia helped it reach a new audience – including his children’s friends – and that to avoid a clash with the race leader’s maglia rosa, another changeout kit will be unveiled for the 2021 race which starts in Turin a week tomorrow.
The kit, kept under very close wraps until the team presentation in Agrigento on the eve of the race, divided opinion – but the buzz around it made it perhaps the most discussed cycling jersey ever, and the collaboration’s limited edition run sold out in double-quick time.
Speaking to road.cc by videochat ahead of the re-opening earlier this month of the expanded and refurbished Rapha Clubhouse in London’s Soho, Mottram said: "The Palace thing was just incredible.
“One of those moments when cycling spikes and pushes through into the popular consciousness, whether it’s Bradley [Wiggins] sitting on a throne gripping a gold medal or winning the Tour de France … or more often than not it’s a doping story and you see us in the mainstream media,” he added with a laugh.
“And Palace Skate was one of those, it was picked up by all the style press and the fashion press.
“The best credit I could possibly have is that my children’s friends would say, ‘Hey, is that your dad’s company? That’s the coolest thing ever!’
“So we reached a whole audience we’d probably never get to and it was great, it’s really nice to do something where it’s a total surprise and shock.
“When we planned it for the Giro, not even knowing that the Giro was going to happen, the whole race calendar was up in the air, we thought, ‘Well no-one else will be doing anything for the Giro, we’ve got to change anyway, so let’s make it really exciting.
“The product sold really quickly, and we couldn’t make more than that, so that’s fine, and yes, there were lovers and there were haters, but there were significantly more lovers than haters.
“I suppose the most important thing is you get people talking and you raise the profile of the whole event,” Mottram said.
EF Education-Nippo’s current kit cleverly incorporates the UCI’s design rules on placement of sponsors’ logos and the like – but it will be swapped out for the Italian Grand Tour, Mottram confirmed.
“We are looking to do something for the Giro next month because, as you quite rightly point out, we do have a largely pink jersey.
“It was amazing that the year before  we got away with having a pink jersey.
“We’ve got another changeout planned, because we have to” he said.
And as for that striking Palace Skate collaboration last year? “I have a jersey I haven’t worn because it’s an aero jersey so I’ll look ridiculous,” Mottram confessed, “but also because it’s not my style personally, but it’s a great piece of design, nevertheless.”
We’ll bring you full details of EF-Nippo’s 2021 Giro d’Italia changeout kit, plus more from our chat, next week.
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.