What Is the Meaning of the Rainbow Jersey in Cycling?

Published 09/22/2021, 6:00 PM EDT
Myriam Nicole produced a perfect run to win the downhill title at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Val di Sole, while South Africa’s Greg Minnaar claimed the title for the fourth time. // Greg Minnaar and Myriam Nicole celebrates at UCI DH World Championships in Val di Sole, Italy on August 29, 2021 //Bartosz Wolinski / Red Bull Content Pool


One aspect of the sport of cycling is the different jerseys that can be seen in a race. Amidst a sea of riders, some of them stand out for their achievements during the event, which their jerseys depict in this environment.

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One such jersey is the rainbow jersey, which features in various tournaments held by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).

What does the rainbow jersey depict in cycling events?

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The ongoing UCI Road World Championships in Flanders has seen some incredible performances. From Filippo Ganna defending his crown in the men’s elite individual time trial, to Ellen van Dijk storming to victory in the women’s race, this year’s championships in Belgium have seen it all.

In fact, Ganna sported the rainbow jersey in Flanders this year since he won last year’s event in Imola. The rainbow jersey is worn by that rider who is the defending champion heading into the event. Across all cycling disciplines, the design of the rainbow jersey remains nearly the same.

While the backdrop is white, the jersey features five horizontal colored hoops. The colors featured on the jersey from top to bottom are blue, red, black, yellow and green. This jersey is awarded to riders who win the individual elite time trials in the men’s and women’s category.

In addition, the winners of the men’s under-23 time trial and the newly introduced team time trial event will receive this jersey as well. The rider who earns the rainbow jersey can wear it to any event for a full year until the next edition of the event he or she won it at.

For former champions, they can wear rainbow-colored bands and have those colors on their jersey’s collar to events as a symbol of their achievement. However, they can only wear it to the event in which they previously won their rainbow-colored jersey.

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Who won the first rainbow jersey?

The rainbow jersey made its first appearance in men’s cycling in 1927, which saw Italian cyclist Alfredo Binda become its first holder. However, women’s cycling needed to wait till 1958 to see Luxembourg cyclist Elsy Jacobs achieve this feat.

As for the modern day, the ongoing Road World Cycling Championships saw some excellent performances. Dutch cyclist Ellen van Dijk clocked an impressive time of 36:05.28 in the women’s elite individual time trial event to win the coveted rainbow jersey.

Cycling – UCI Road World Championships – Knokke-Heist to Bruges, Belgium – September 20, 2021 Netherlands’ Ellen van Dijk celebrates on the podium with the medal after winning the stage REUTERS/Yves Herman

While van Dijk won her first title in eight years, Filippo Ganna defended his title from last year. The Italian put in a stunning performance in the men’s individual time trial event on the opening day of proceedings in Belgium.

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Danish rider Johan Price-Pejtersen won the men’s under-23 time trial on September 20. The 22-year-old posted an impressive 34:29s on the 30.3km course to win the event.

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Meanwhile, Germany’s top cyclists clinched the team time trial event. Led by veteran Tony Martin, the Germans pipped Netherlands and Italy to take the top step on the podium. In addition, Martin finished his last professional race by claiming the coveted rainbow jersey.

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Sanket Nair

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Sanket Nair is an F1 Author at EssentiallySports. A Sports Management graduate, he is a huge fan of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and hopes to see Red Bull break Mercedes' dominance and win the World Championship soon. Sanket has been hooked to the sport ever since he watched the battle for the 2010 World Championship go down to the wire at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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