Stars in stripes: celebrating 30 years of Santini and the rainbow jersey

No clothing company is as closely associated to the rainbow jersey as Santini. The Italian firm has made the iconic world champion’s jersey since 1988 – from Maurizio Fondriest to Alejandro Valverde, some of the sport’s finest riders, names etched into cycling history, have worn one of Santini’s rainbow jersey on the top step of the podium.

“There is no other jersey like the rainbow jersey,” says Paola Santini, daughter of Pietro Santini, who founded the clothing company in Lombardy, Italy, in 1965. “It’s the jersey every cyclist dreams of wearing – every little kid that dreams of becoming a pro cyclist, dreams of winning that jersey.”

Santini will mark its 30-year relationship with cycling’s blue riband one-day event at the Rouleur Classic, itself a celebration of the World Championships. Fourteen holders of the rainbow jersey have been confirmed for the show, which will be held from November 1-3 at London’s Victoria House. Merckx to De Vlaeminck, Wiggins to Deignan.

Santini will document the colourful history of the World Championships since 1988, with a memorabilia-filled timeline of medals and signed jerseys, while visitors to the show will have the opportunity to buy one of 30 limited edition posters, made from the paper that transferred the rainbow stripes onto the 2018 world’s champion’s jersey, and signed by Pietro Santini.


Unlike cycling’s Grand Tour leaders’ jerseys, the rainbow jersey is unique in that it is worn throughout the year by the world champion. Cast an eye through the peloton on any given race day and the rainbow stripes will glint back. “Becoming a world champion is something that sticks with you, not only through the entire season, but for your whole life,” says Paola Santini. “It’s difficult to become world champion, only a few do, but once you achieve that it never leaves you.” 

Read: Worlds 1927 – Alfredo Binda, Nürburgring and the first rainbow jersey

As well as producing the rainbow jersey worn on the podium, Santini has also helped a number of riders on its sponsored national teams to victory, most recently with three back-to-back wins for Peter Sagan. It is these victories that gives Paola Santini particular pleasure.

“We work with our national teams on every single little detail where we can help them go faster,” she says, citing Sagan’s victory in Santini’s River skinsuit, designed exclusively for the Slovakian. “On the track it’s even more important. Every detail matters.”


The podium jersey itself received a revamp in 2016, with all disciplines adopting the understated design previously worn on the top step by the road world champion. Previously, the rainbow stripes used on the mountain bike, time trial, track and cyclo-cross jerseys had adapted designs, incorporating a mountain ridge, stopwatch, velodrome corner and a rider shouldering a bike on the respective designs. Now the rainbow stripes speak for themselves.  “It’s the classic design,” says Paola.

Read: Why designing pro cycling team kit is such a tough job

Wearing a national or world champion’s jersey is considered something of a faux-pas for recreational cyclists, but this year Santini gave regular riders the chance to relive and celebrate classic races of old, and their champions, with the launch of the classy Grandi Campioni collection.

The initial line-up included designs inspired by Fausto Coppi (1953), Eddy Merckx (1974) and Stephen Roche (1987), while jersey and bib short combinations that tell the story of Beryl Burton (1960) and Jan Janssen’s (1964) victories will be launched at the Rouleur Classic.


Santini says each design has been “created to celebrate not just the victories of past winners, but shed light on the personalities of the riders, the emotions and remarkable stories that occurred in relation to those historic events.” The understated range uses colours inspired by each rider’s national team jersey, with the five rainbow stripes subtly incorporated into the zip and leg gripper.

“The design of the wording used on the chest is adapted from archive UCI publicity material that would have originally advertised each event,” adds Santini.

Each jersey also carries a small motif created to symbolise the theme behind the victory, incorporated on an embroidered fabric label stitched on the back pocket which tells the story of the triumph. Roche’s jersey uses a triple crown motif – a nod to the Irishman’s Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and World Championship victories in 1987.

Paola Santini describes the Grandi Campioni line-up as “very special to us, it’s a collector’s collection” and the range offers an insight into how much value the company puts on the World Championships, not only through the past 30 years, but further back and beyond to the names who have created some of the most iconic moments in the history of cycling.

“Being connected to the World Championships is so important to us,” she says. “We are very proud and want to continue that connection for another 30 years.” 

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