by Holly Blades
Born and raised just outside Nottingham, I couldn't escape Raleigh as a kid. Yes, my brother had a Chopper he got second hand from the Evening Post, and yes – living in a large industrial town – Raleigh was one of the main companies we could look forward to working for when Careers Day came around. The brand was something we were proud of. Like Paul Smith, Lord Byron and D. H. Lawrence, it was a name that put Nottingham on the map. So, it feels fitting that in Conquista’s new series reminiscing over classic cycling jerseys and the teams that wore them, first up is the unmistakeable red, gold and black of 1970s superstars TI-Raleigh.
In 1885, Richard Woodhead from Sherwood and Paul Angois from France began a small bicycle manufacturing workshop on Raleigh Street near Nottingham's Arboretum. In 1887, a property magnate called Frank Bowden returned from Hong Kong gravely ill and took up cycling on his doctor's advice. He bought a Woodhead and Angois bike from Queen Victoria Street in London and found it improved his health so much that when he passed through Nottingham, he made a point of stopping in at the workshop and enquiring about buying the latest model. He ended up investing in the company, which after moving location to a much larger factory, changed its name to honour its original home, Raleigh Street.
By the end of the 1960s, TI-Raleigh (the TI stood for Tube Investments, Raleigh's holding company) represented 75% of the UK cycling market, including Carlton Cycles (famous for the Carlton Flyer on which Tom Simpson won bronze in the team pursuit at the 1956 Olympics), Brooks Saddles, Sturmey-Archer hubs and Reynolds Technology tube sets.
Team TI-Raleigh were founded in 1974 and based in the Netherlands with the frames being built in Raleigh's Specialist Bike Development Unit in Ilkeston, which is, admittedly, in Derbyshire, not Nottinghamshire. Formed by the late Peter Post, a six-day specialist from Amsterdam, the team originally specialised in track racing and team time trials, but with additions like Joop Zoetemelk and Jan Raas, TI-Raleigh were soon taking stage races and one-day classics by storm.
TI-Raleigh originally sponsored a British team in 1972, a successor of TI-Carlton, and while the familiar red, gold and black colouring was present on the sleeves, the body of the jersey was white with the Raleigh heron logo the only dash of red. By 1974, the classic red jersey with black sleeves and gold accents was in use, and as more Dutch riders joined the roster, the team finally moved to the Netherlands in 1975. In 1976, accessories sponsor Campagnolo's handwritten flourish was added to the jersey and would remain there throughout the McGregor (a Dutch clothing company) and Creda (domestic appliances) iterations.
By 1983, tensions between DS Peter Post and former world champion Jan Raas saw the break up of the TI-Raleigh team. The majority of the roster stayed with Post and went on to become Panasonic, with Raleigh remaining the team’s bike manufacturer. Raas would take several of his teammates, including Joop Zoetemelk, off to form Kwantum – a short-lived precursor to Rabobank and today's Team LottoNL-Jumbo. The Kwantum jersey again featured red, black and gold, much more similar to the original TI-Raleigh team’s kit than anything Panasonic created.
The iconic TI-Raleigh jersey of the mid-1970s to early 1980s appeared on the top step of many podiums over the years, including 56 stage wins in the Tour de France, three Tours de Suisse, four Amstel Gold Races (all Jan Raas, with three of them consecutive), a couple of Tours of Flanders, a brace of Gent-Wevelgems and a Paris-Roubaix chucked in for good measure. Most famously, Joop Zoetemelk won the overall Tour de France in 1980 nearly seven minutes ahead of former teammate Hennie Kuiper. Alas, he had to wear the boring old maillot jaune and not the ace blockiness of his team colours. Pah.
As a testament to the longevity of the design, 27 years later the classic jersey was back, albeit, thankfully for the riders, in Lycra and not wool, when British UCI Continental Team Raleigh formed in 2010. For the next seven years, the bold colours of the original jersey were seen on the roads of the UK, throughout Tour Series events, several nocturnes and the Premier Calendar. The kit also pops up in the TI-Raleigh Vintage Cycling Club, a team of appreciators of the retro bikes and jerseys associated with the 1970s TI-Raleigh team, where the only rule to join appears to be that you must own an original TI bike.
As far as jerseys go, TI-Raleigh is uncomplicated. It's bold and memorable, much like the Belgian national champion’s top. It conjures up a classic era of racing and a team who dominated their sport for several years. And, y'know, if it's good enough for Mick Talbot of the Style Council to wear on Top of the Pops in 1984, it's good enough for Conquista.