In a sport built around years of tradition, one of my favorites in cycling is the rainbow jersey. Each year, a world champion is crowned in each discipline of the sport, from road racing to mountain bike to cyclo-cross. Beyond the prestige of being recognized as the world champ, the winner gets another honor -- the right to wear a special jersey for a year. It's one of those cool things that gives cycling its character -- when you're a kid racing, it's easy to dream of someday slipping on a rainbow jersey (although, you soon learn that it's not going to happen. At least, that's what I learned).
Now, some companies will actually sell you a replica of the world champion's jersey, one that you can put on as you go out on your training ride. Call me cranky, but this legitimately bums me out. I actually feel like companies shouldn't even be allowed to sell them -- the only way you should be able to get a rainbow jersey should be to earn it by being the best in the world.
But beyond that, who on earth would buy one and wear it? There must be a market, but for me it's oddly disrespectful. The people who wear the rainbow stripe on merit have sacrificed much of their lives in pursuit of it; somehow, dropping $100 for a replica seems like the worst sort of cluelessness.
So, I was down at Sea Otter on Friday, driving into the parking lot on a back road. As I get closer to the venue, I see someone on a mountain bike, wearing a world champ's jersey. I start cursing under my breath, and pull alongside him, fully ready to shake my head ruefully at him.
And it's Christophe Sauser. The mountain bike world champion.
So, I guess that's OK if he's wearing one.