New in: Santini UCI Il Grandi Campioni collection

Words by David Hicks

on 09/07/2018 09:34:00

Santini UCI Cycle Clothing Hero

Merckx. Coppi. Roche.

Space in the upper echelons of road cycling legend is certainly limited, but few deserve a seat at the top table more than these three titans of the sport. Steeped in cycling mythology, Eddy Merckx, Fausto Coppi and Stephen Roche not only swept aside their contemporaries en route to achieving their unmatchable palmares, but they did it with a swagger and style so devastating and delectable that all these years later their achievements still stand strong in the annals of road cycling history. To honour those most famous of rides, the classic Italian clothing manufacturer, Santini, has bought their own inimitable flair to a special edition range of cycling jerseys, shorts and accessories.

Designed with comfort and style in mind, and crafted from lightweight fabrics using the latest in cycle clothing technology, the Grandi Campioni range matches high performance with a classic aesthetic to create a distinctive and stylish range of road cycling clothing which pays homage to some of cycle sport's greatest names. With all of their kit manufactured in Italy, the range is geared towards fast sportive riders and racers with a slim fit, UV protection, high breathability and good aerodynamic performance - perfect for all day rides, shorter evening blasts, and looking damn good outside cafes.

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Fausto Coppi: La Dama Bianca

Even to this day, Fausto Coppi's effortless style both on and off the bike has barely been matched and adds a certain something special to tales of his riding - and the subsequent list of victories the Italian can boast.

In 1953, the Italian Fausto coppi was head and shoulders above the rest of the peloton. He had been dominating international cycling for several years, not least with five victories in the Giro d'Italia, two in the Tour de France and four at Milan-San Remo. By the age of 34, he had won everything. Or almost - despite his enviable palmares, the title of UCI World Champion had always eluded him, the closest he had come to claiming the rainbow jersey in the road race was in Copenhagen in 1949, when he finished third behind Rik Van Steenbergen and Ferdi Kubler. It was not until 1953 that Coppi would finally claim the world title on the �Circuito della Crespera�, capping a mangnificent career by winning the only major title missing from his palmares, and he did it in style.

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The UCI World Road Championships were held that year in Lugano, in the Italian speaking Swiss canton of Ticino. Of the 300.000 spectators crowded around the circuit, some 100.000 were Italians, they witnessed a tactical masterpiece by Coppi, who broke away with 90 kilometres to go on the Crespera climb and crossed the finish line alone, 6' 22'' ahead of Belgium's Germain Derycke and 7' 33'' in front of another Belgian, Stan Ockers. But as Coppi climbed onto the podium, little did he realise the incident that was about to take place next would cause national scandal and change his life forever.

The glamorous brunette waiting to present him with the garland of flowers was Giulia Occhini - �La dama bianca� - Fausto Coppi's secret lover. As the story goes, the pair first met on the summit of the Stelvio earlier that year, at the end of a stage of the giro. Until Lugano, neither of them had made their relationship public. In staunchly catholic Italy, it was illegal at that time to have an extra marital affair, and the revelation invoked a tirade of protest man from all quarters of society: Coppi had his passport revoked and the pope Pius XII informed him by letter that he had heard directly from St Mark that he should leave Occhini and return to his family.

This special edition jerseys tells the tale of 'La Dama Bianca' and Coppi's dominant victory with a detailed story intertwined in the jersey finished with a rose, making reference to the garland of flowers that was presented to Coppi by Giulia Occhini in Lugano. Stylish, yet comfortable, the jersey and matching bib shorts include subtle nods to the rainbow jersey claimed by Coppi.

Eddy Merckx: Le Cannibale

Eddy Merckx's victories are as famous as they are numerous - 525 in fact. But 1974 marked perhaps one of his most famous seasons, claiming the Triple Crown of cycling victories: two grand tours and the World Championships.

Montreal, Canada, was the setting for the 1974 UCI Road World Championships, the first time the event had taken place outside of Europe. The race on the mount royal circuit saw Merckx looking for revenge after the previous season's loss to Felice Gimondi in Barcelona - a loss that Merckx believed was due to his teammate, Freddy Marten's collusion with the Italian. That year, 29-year-old Merckx had failed to win any spring classics and by his own admission felt his power could be waning. He had, however, gone on to win the Giro and the Tour, and had a point to prove in Montreal: he was going for the triple crown. The majority of the race saw the great French rider Bernard Thevenet heroically riding for nearly 100 km in a sold break, Albeit ultimately ill-judge, Thevenets move prompted Merckx to band together a select group of riders to pursue the escapee. This group included the likes of Raymond Poulidor, Giovanni Battaglin, Francesco Moser and even Maertens, who after the previous year's debacle had come to an accord with Merckx.

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The penultimate lap saw Merckx make a ferocious attack, managing to drop both Battaglin and Moser. At the front Thevenet was cracking, and with the last lap looming the French rider had barely 30 seconds on the chasing riders. Merckx's small group caught Thevenet on the final climb of the last lap, and his teammate Poulidor was powerless to do anything to help him. As the finale of the race unfolded, Merckx countred an attack by Poulidor, effectively putting the two man into contention for the world title. With just 200 metres remaining, Merckx kicked, powering past Poulidor to the line, and becoming the first rider to take 2 grand tours wins and the worlds in the same season. He had proved beyond doubt that his hunger for victory remained intact.

The color chosen was inspired by the Belgian National team kit worn by Merckx on his winning ride. The 'Le Cannibale' kit highlights this historic milestone with a colour scheme inspired by the Belgian National team kit worn by Merckx on his winning ride, and a rainbow stripes zip and a printed label on the back pocket which details that victorious ride The image of the skull with the crossed knife and fork beneath it is a reference to Merckx's pseudonym - 'The Cannibal'. Designed to match the jersey, the bib shorts are engineered from 'Thunderbike Power' fabric for a compressed fit, with a mesh upper design to add breathability and comfort.

Stephen Roche: The Triple Crown

Eddy Merckx may have claimed the Triple Crown of Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and World Championships glory in one season in 1974, but that astounding result remained unmatched in cycling for 13 years. No one was expecting that on Sunday, September 6th, 1987 in Villach, Austria, the world would witness a rider from Dundrum County, Dublin, do the same.

Stephen Roche's job that day, along with Martin Earley and Paul Kimmage, was to ride for Sean Kelly. It was without doubt the strongest Irish team ever assembled for a World Championships. The four team mates waited at the start in the rain - which incidentally did little to worry them - with the aim of putting Kelly onto the top step of the podium with the rainbow stripes around his chest, they had 23 laps of 12 km in which to achieve that. The start of the last lap saw Roche Kick, accelerating hard, with Kelly clinging to his wheel. Only 12 riders remained in the leading group until, with 2 km to go, Dutch rider Teun Van Vliet made a move. Roche jumped on his wheel followed by three other riders, leaving Kelly and Moreno Argentin, the reigning UCI world champion, in the chasing group.

While infuriating Argentin Kelly's refusal to chase down his fellow countryman was an act as magnanimous as it was shrewd: he understood that a win for whoever was wearing a green jersey would be a win for the entire nation. Danish rider Rolf Sorenson attacked in the final kilometre, relentlessly pulling on the front of Roche's group before exploding going into the final straight. Roche jumped and crossed the line victorious, arms raised in celebration, for only the second time in history a rider had won cycling's �triple crown�.

Roche's victory (and with it the subsequent claiming of the Triple Crown) is marked on the Villach '87 jersey with a triple crown motif and the story of his final attack to claim the rainbow stripes. With a deep green theme representative of Roche's native Ireland, the jersey is matched by bib shorts with a mesh upper, silicone grippers, and a complimentary design.

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