There is no denying that aerodynamics play a huge role when riding at a high speed, and criterium racing is one of the most intense and fast-paced types of cycling there is. It’s for this reason that Rapha has launched its new Pro Team Crit Jersey, designed specifically for those furious crits and described as the “fastest possible jersey” on offer for the unique requirements of this type of racing.
With this in mind, Rapha explains there was no better team to be on hand to give feedback and test the jersey during the design process than Rapha sponsored squad L39ION of LA. Founded by brothers Justin and Cory Williams, it’s a team which has long been dominating the US crit scene, famous for its incredibly drilled lead outs and unmatched sprinting prowess. In 2021, L3GION of LA’s men’s and women’s squads took a clean sweep at Tulsa Tough, one of the biggest criterium races in the States, with Cory Williams and Skylar Schneider both securing wins on GC.
This year, the team will head back to Tulsa with hopes to repeat the success it found on the winding city streets in 2021. They’ll take on the races in the new Pro Team Crit jersey, which is described as an elevated version of the Aero Jersey by Rapha.
The upgrades come largely from the aerodynamic fabrics which are placed on the jersey’s upper. It’s a textured material with hexagonally shaped raised patterning which is said to improve airflow and reduce drag. Further aiding the aerodynamic performance of the Crit jersey is the meticulously placed bonded seams which have been routed away from key zones to ensure they don’t impact the rider’s efficiency when speeding through the air.
Rapha’s designer, Harry Osbourne explains: “We learned that reducing seams across the shoulders and chest was very important. The pattern we’ve created has a shoulder dart but no rear shoulder seam at all. There’s a seam across the chest and one across the back which leaves you with textured fabrics – chosen specifically for their aero credentials – positioned perfectly to trip the air as it passes over the shoulders.”
Increasing the jersey’s aerodynamic performance doesn’t stop at the materials used, as the compressive fit of the garment also holds huge importance when it comes to reducing drag. The jersey’s rear hem features a low-profile, bonded construction while a low-cut collar also ensures there’s no friction on the skin and aids temperature regulation. A full zip along the front of the jersey is another feature which Rapha claims will be an asset when it comes to keeping cool during intense efforts.
Despite the focus on racing and high-performance, the jersey still features traditional rear pockets. However, they are made from a seamless construction that sits tight against the body to ensure they impact drag as little as possible.
We have been able to ride the Pro Team Crit jersey at some local, flat criterium races here in the UK as well as on an outdoor velodrome, testing its aero credentials and comfort over short, hard efforts. There’s no denying that this is a jersey designed for racing – we felt like the tight and compressive fit could get a little uncomfortable on rides exceeding two hours.
That said, Rapha markets the garment as designed specifically for high-speed sprints and crit racing and it performed exceptionally well in those circumstances. The jersey’s simplicity is an asset here with the lack of seams and ensuring it sits close to the skin, giving complete peace of mind that no watts are being wasted while going full gas in an effort.
The raw hem on the sleeves reduced bulk in that area, but it was a good call from Rapha not to carry out this design to the rear of the jersey. Instead, it has opted to keep a thick band on the bottom of the jersey, ensuring it stays firmly in place. This is essential in crit races where getting in and out of the saddle is common. This, combined with the compressive fit, makes the jersey feel extremely secure and supportive when riding at speed.
We found the jersey to regulate temperature well, wicking sweat efficiently to ensure that moisture was managed throughout the effort. As always with Rapha kit, the design and colourways are sleek and stylish, with the Rapha logo placed under the arm of the jersey meaning it is most visible when riders are on the drops – as is usually the case in crit races and sprints. The reflective material used on the logo will also pop in nocturne races that take place in low light conditions.
The jersey retails at £200 which is a high price point for something that can only really be used in specific race scenarios. However, if you’re someone who frequently races or is looking for those aerodynamic gains over intense efforts, then this is a perfect choice. It’s compressive, sleek and technically advanced, made for riding fast.