Giro d'Italia's purple polemica: UCI involved amid question marks over Tadej Pogačar’s shorts

The granata colour was a tribute to the Torino football team that lost their lives in the tragedy of 1949

Clock12:33, Tuesday 7th May 2024
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia

© Getty Images

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) on stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia

By Patrick Fletcher and George Poole

Wearing the maglia rosa for the first time in his already illustrious career on Monday morning, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) was resplendent in pink at the start of stage 3 at the Giro d’Italia. That is, from the waist up at least. As for the shorts of the race leader’s skinsuit, gone were the black bibs worn by Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) on stage 2 and in was a colour akin to the purple of the ciclamino jersey.

Onlookers soon pointed out the similarities between Pogačar’s ostensibly purple shorts and the ciclamino get-up of the points classification leader, Filippo Fiorelli (VF Group–Bardiani–CSF–Faizanè), but the Giro’s kit supplier Castelli were quick to clarify the colour and the meaning behind Pogačar’s unusual race attire.

Speaking exclusively with GCN on the morning of stage 4, a spokesperson on the ground for the Italian brand asserted that the shorts were in fact granata, which is a shade of maroon. Eagle-eyed viewers will note that the granata colour is also featured in the accents of the maglia rosa this year, whilst Castelli were keen to downplay comparisons with the cyclamen points jersey.

“It’s a different color than the ciclamino which has a darker shade of ciclamino. We didn’t want a Peppa Pig in the group 🐽 😂,” Castelli’s international marketing manager Søren Jensen told GCN over text, explaining why Pogačar was not in an all-pink skinsuit.

Read more: The jerseys of the Giro d’Italia explained

The granata colour was a tribute to the Torino football team and in particular, the Grande Torino side that fell victim to the Superga plane tragedy in 1949. Known today as one of the greatest teams that Italian football has ever produced, Grande Torino won five consecutive Serie A titles in the 1940s but were travelling back from a game in Lisbon when their plane crashed in May 1949.

On board were all but two players from the Torino team and all 31 people on the flight died in the crash, including 18 members of the all-conquering side, four members of the flight crew, six club officials and staff, and three journalists. Stage 3 was to be the last in the Piedmont region of this year’s race and 75 years on from the tragedy, race organisers RCS Sport took the opportunity to pay homage to the victims.

“It’s the same color as Torino calcio,” added Jensen. ⁠”On the hip is the motto of Torino: Grande Torino solo il fato li vinse.”

The motif, meaning ‘only fate defeated them,’ is also featured on the inside of the jersey collar. But for all the well-meaning behind the tribute, Pogačar’s multi-coloured skinsuit on stage 3 caused quite the controversy not only on social media, but also in the city of Acqui Terme on Tuesday morning.

‘We don’t want any problem’ say UAE Team Emirates, as Pogačar returns to black

At the start of stage 4 in Acqui Terme, three UCI commissaires paid a visit to the UAE Team Emirates bus, where they spoke at length with the team’s sporting manager, Joxean Matxín Fernández. The trio of officials then spoke at even greater length with Christian Salvato from the CPA and Davide Viganò from Castelli.

The UCI commissaires declined to comment on the nature of their enquiries, but GCN understands they were looking for answers regarding the colouring of Pogačar’s skinsuit, and how the whole outfit had come to pass. There appeared to be confusion from all angles over what the rules allow.

“They’re talking about whether it’s permitted or not – having a different colours on the shorts to that of the jersey,” Matxín told GCN.

“It’s a question of interpretation of the rules, whether you understand that purple is approved, or whether it’s different to the jersey. Some understand yes, some no.

“It’s a decision for the UCI. Whatever the organisers and the UCI decide among themselves, we will respect that.”

The UCI rulebook is not specific on the matter. “The wearer of the leader's jersey shall be entitled to match the colour of his shorts to that of the jersey,” it reads.

That essentially means a Giro leader can wear pink shorts, or stick with their team-issue shorts. The waters are muddied slightly by skinsuits, which are a one-piece item of clothing, and the question here appears to be whether the lower portion should be different to the torso.

Pogačar had indicated that he simply wore a skinsuit that was given to him by the organisers, and Matxín indicated that Pogačar had been keen to wear a skinsuit, rather than jersey and shorts, on stage 3. However, the shift back to black shorts, on what is a similar stage, signified an attempt to simplify things.

“Today we start in black, we don’t want any problems,” Matxín added.

As for Viganò, the Castelli official made his point in front of the UCI that the purple was in fact ‘granata’, while Salvato indicated that his interpretation of the UCI rulebook was that the organisers are permitted to choose the colour of their jerseys and skin suits.

“I think it should be pretty clear. Cycling has bigger things to worry about than this,” he told GCN.

Pogačar prefers the skinsuit but 'decided not to risk anything'

Update: Pogačar was asked about the issue in his pink jersey press conference following the conclusion of stage 4 of the Giro d'Italia.

"I got the suit from the organisers. I wore this suit because it’s faster, better, I like them also.

"I wore it yesterday then we got a call from the UCI that it’s against the rules. Then the story goes on between I don’t know who.

"I decided not to risk anything and race today in normal shorts and not the skin suit."

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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