How to design kit for Track Champions League riders in 12 days
Lights, Camera, Skinsuits, Action! Santini Creative Director Fergus Niland describes how the company met the challenge of producing skinsuits to a tight schedule for all 72 competitors at the inaugural UCI Track Champions League
For this Autumn’s inaugural UCI Track Cycling Champions League, Santini were tasked with producing customised skinsuits for each athlete. This competition series placed the world’s top-ranked sprint and endurance track champions against each other in weekly rounds of short-format races across Europe. Staging keirin, sprint, scratch and elimination races in rapid succession was sure to engage and exhilarate velodrome and TV audiences. Taking place under the fanfare of bright lights, pumping music, and animated presenters, it was only fitting that the athletes would wear striking kit to match the dynamic environment. For Santini, being involved in this unique type of event was a fantastic proposition. Creative Director Fergus Niland said.
The idea was incredibly exciting and exactly what track cycling needed. It’s a fresh new image for the sport, tackling the gender prize money equality question and opening things up to a wider audience.”
Having worked in partnership with the UCI for over 30 years, Santini have a long experience in producing high-performance kit across various disciplines, including track cycling. The company select fabrics with specific aerodynamic features for their skinsuits, notably, through their extensive research and testing work with the Australian national team. Naturally, Santini were ideally placed to produce the technical kit for the UCI Track Champions League. However, the Bergamo-based production team had an added complication. Although they were engaged in the project in March of this year, it was not possible to commence production until after the World Championships when the full start list was confirmed. As such, this left less than two weeks to produce the clothing for all 72 riders from over 30 different nations.
Niland explains: “When I heard about the project, the first thought that came to mind was how tight the timeframe was. There was a lot to pull together, given that track apparel is as complex and technical as it gets in the world of cycling”. “We had incredibly short notice to gather all riders’ sizes and sponsors, as these were only available after the World Championship on 24th October, and the challenge was to provide all riders with their skinsuits – two each – at the first event, in Mallorca on November 6th.” Given the short turnaround time, the designers produced the best fitting skinsuit based on the riders’ measurements.
Niland continues: “Meeting the athletes and doing a fitting would have been the ideal situation, but we didn’t have enough time to do that. In this case the organisation helped us by providing all riders with a register form where they had to include information on their size and sponsors.”
Since the Track Champions League, as explained by organisers Discovery Sports Events, is a dynamic transition between the World Championships and the World Cup Events, this ambiance was reflected in the pimped-up attire of the racers. Instead of conventional flag designs, Santini included eye-catching motifs to represent the various nations – from Algeria to New Zealand.
Niland explains how they approached the creative process. “We had to create a look for each nation that was distinct and recognisable, but different from the standard national team kit. At the same time, it had to be connected to the branding of the Track Champions League. From a design point of view, it was an interesting task! “The main challenge with designs was to have a continuity on the graphics, but some of the flags had a very similar colour scheme, and at first glance it was hard to distinguish one country’s flag from another. So, we printed a big sheet with all the designs, compared each of them, and we worked on details to have the final result we wanted to achieve.
Feedback from the athletes about the kit was very good. Commenting on his skinsuit, Team GB’s Ed Clancy who was competing in his last ever professional competitive event, before retiring said, “I’ve never really been one for an artistic journey or anything like that but I've got to say, it’s pretty good. I love the fact that the riders can stick their own branding on, and it’s nice to be able to stick my Clancy-Briggs Cycling Academy on it.
Clancy’s compatriot, Katie Archibald who won the women’s endurance competition really liked the feel of her skinsuit when racing in it. Having led the rankings from the opening round, she did not wear the Team GB design, and instead, sported the series leader’s sky-blue skinsuit. “It’s a lovely skinsuit, but the colour meant that it was not easy for me to hide in the bunch during the scratch race!”
Conversely, for Nicholas Paul, a skinsuit that showed off his country’s colours in a prominent way was useful in giving visibility to Trinidad & Tobago on the world stage. The sprint racer said, “It’s always a pleasure to represent the red white and black to put my country out there. It’s a little island, so I think for me to be able to put it on the map and let people know that Trinidad & Tobago has great talent is always a great thing and I take pride in doing that. I think also the difference in design to the normal colours that we have on our nation’s skinsuits is a totally different aspect. It’s eye-catching, and I think it looks great.” Although this was a challenge for Santini, they were confident that they had the capacity to meet the demands of the organisers and the UCI, and were very happy with the finished results.
Niland explained the manufacturing side aspect of the skinsuits. “From the printers, sublimation presses and sewing machines, everything is manufactured 100% in Italy. All the various machinery connected with the construction of the Track Champion League products are housed under one roof, in our factory in Bergamo. “The manufacturing of these specific garments, at a production level really didn’t require any more effort than usual, though the process was slightly different. “Track skinsuits require a lot of skilled work to produce, as we are creating a specific size for each rider, based on the technical specifications they send us. I suppose it was the work prior to production that required a lot of attention, such as the specific details unique to each athlete. This is something that we are proud to say we’re experts in.
Equally, Global Marketing Director Paola Santini was pleased with the company’s involvement in the project. She said, “It was clear to us from the start that this would be a challenge, but we were glad we could be involved in this project. Track cycling is often where we test the aerodynamics of our products in order to improve their performance, and I think these events deserve to have a chance to be watched and enjoyed by as many people as possible.”