Tour Threads – Jerseys Through The Years: CSC/Saxo Bank, USPS/Discovery.

It’s that time again.

We’re within a week till the Tour de France, and with that comes a myriad of information overload following a fairly dry patch post-Dauphine. Suddenly, everyone has a national championships, all the teams announce their Tour squads in quick succession and most of them suddenly decide they’d quite like a new sponsor and jersey to go with that.

And this year, we’re doing pretty well on that front – Saxo Bank have joined forces with Tinkoff, returning to cycling after that brief stint with Katusha, to form the snappily names ‘Saxo-Bank Tinkoff Bank.’ Like everyone else, my first though was surely ‘Hang on…Tinkoff had a urine yellow kit…surely they havent combined it with that lovely dark blue?’ They had.

Still, I thought in light of this, it would be fun to look back at some of the kits of some everyones favourite teams through the years, with some brief history on them as we go. I’ll try and get the rest of the Tour teams done before the race begins aswell – although early 80s Kwantum Hallen-Decosol-Yoko (nowdays known as Rabobank!) might be  a tad tricky.

Anyway, I’ve managed to dredge up most of the teams, and will write them up as I go. Inevitably something will be wrong, whether its the order or the year etc. But hey, enjoy, it’s all about the pictures…

CSC/Saxo Bank

Yes, the team of the Bjarne Riis, which would probably be called ‘Riis Cycling’ is if were run under a company name a la Leopard was. They are one of the more successful teams in the peloton, with a belatedly awarded Tour win, a couple of podiums courtesy of of Ivan Basso, the 2006 Giro taken by the same man, Laurent Jalabert’s King of the Mountains jerseys as well as Fabian Cancellara’s glut of Spring Classics.

CSC, as we’ll call them for over view purposes, began in 1998 as Proffessional Cycling Denmark, and to be honest, until CSC took over, not alot happenned, with the team weathering a couple of doping scandals until the Computer Sciences Corporation took over with Riis back in tow after he sold his stock in the team in 1999.

The team quickly signed Laurant Jalabert and Tyler Hamilton, with Jalabert delivering much needed success after the cruelly named Bo Hamburger tested positive for EPO early in the season. Hamilton won Liege Bastonge Liege for the team when they began their run in the extremely cool red and black of CSC in 2003, and Carlos Sastre the first of two stages of the Tour, the second being his race winning assault up Alpe d’Huez in 2008.

Ivan Basso was they key man until 2006, when, after winning the Giro by 10 minutes, he was found to be banking his own blood, albeit claiming he never used it despite his obscene margin of victory in his home tour. When Basso was pulled, Sastre became the main man, and was upgraded to 3rd place at the ’06 Tour. A period of transition then began, as the team tried to balance the interests of Fabian Cancellara, who had just won Paris-Roubaix, and its bounty of riches in the stage racing department, as Frank and Andy Schleck supplemented Sastre and wore down Cadel Evans on Alpe d’Huez.

Things fell apart when Sastre left at the end of year however. CSC had also left, leaving Saxo Bank, who had joined for the Tour, as the sole sponsor, and in trouble when a deal with IT Factory fell through, reducing the teams sponsorship.

Yes, yes, I left out this Saxo Bank -IT Factory Jersey, but they never raced in it, so it doesnt count!

Still, the team managed second in the 2009 and 2010 Tours, as well as stage wins and Liege Bastonge Liege, Roubaix and Flanders thanks to Schleck and Cancellara. This core of the team however left the squad, which had its bad fortune opitomised by the fact Matti Breschel had just left to get away from the now departed Cancellara. Signing Nick Nuyens was a coup when he beat Cancellara to Flanders victory, but the signing of Alberto Contador has in effect destroyed the team – the all for one mentality combined with the UCI’s ridiculous points system, requiring teams to buy talent and creating a system akin to footballs top heavy Premier league, left Riis in big trouble once Contador was eventually banned and his points stripped for his 2010 positive. Still, with Contador back soon, and new sponsors seemingly queing up, the future looks better for Ol’ Saxo. Lets just hope the riders they desperately need to sign for points aren’t put off by their abomination of a kit.

It turns out I also forgot this effort from the Laurent Jalabert era, which is shocking as it’s really quite good:

US Postal Service/ Discovery Channel

This team is either the Great Satan or the Ark of Heavenly Beings depending on your opinion of one man, whoms history we all know. I could go into it, but frankly, anytime anyone bothers, all that happens is that people try and find ‘evidence’ of which ‘side’ the person is on and hurl abuse accordingly. So we’ll just get on with the kits.

The Posties/The Blue Train didn’t deviate much from their stalwart blue colours throughout their brief existence – they were around from 1996, but I couldn’t find any images from then. Aside from a predominately white 2000 kit which Armstrong hardly wore anyway, blue was the colout, and the team kept the same design pretty much intact from 2001-4 (and yes, that is a youthful Tom Boonen in his 2002 staggiare year for USPS.)

Only when Discovery Channel took over in 2005 did the blue turn to grey for Armstong’s last title, as well as Paolo Salvodelli’s second Giro success, and a lean 2006 as they tried to find a replacement for their star was combined with a fairly dull kit. Luckily, in 2007, they went with a black ensemnle, the antethesis of ‘Euro’, but the vertical sponsor, removal of ‘Channel’ and massive globe made it stand out and one of my favourite kits, and the green/blue combo they created for environmental awarness for the Tour was a winner as well, quite literally, as Alberto Contador shot his way round France to victory. The crazy thing was that no one would step in to sponsor the team of the Tour champion and 3rd place finisher, and so the team died a quiet death.

Arguably, the team’s resurrection occured as soon as the set up simply shifted to Astana, and then onto Radioshack, but for continuity purposes, lets say it ended in 2007. It saves all the mess with the ‘RadioSchlecks’ anyway!

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