A Foul Weather Classics Jersey
Milan San Remo Tested
The 2013 Milan-San Remo Spring Classic will be remembered for three things; firstly for the epic weather conditions that led to an unprecedented neutralising of the race and a bus transfer around the very worst of the storm, secondly for Gerald Ciolek’s brilliant win against Sagan, Cancellara, Stannard and Chavanel, and thirdly for the widespread, if somewhat stealthy, appearance of the Castelli Gabba on the backs of many riders from a plethora of different teams, including Ciolek.
Legend has it that Thomas Voeckler personally bought Gabbas for his entire Europcar team at retail price and that even Fabian Cancellara put his hand in pocket to buy one despite his sponsorship deals, such was the pro peloton’s appetite for the piece. Whether as an in-joke, or in a fit of pragmatism, it’s certainly true that in 2014 Castelli launched the ‘Pro’ Edition of the Gabba, which was identical to the standard version save for the inclusion of a black marker pen in the box, a reference to the fact that so many of the Milan-San Remo riders had to colour in the Castelli branding in order to appease rival clothing sponsors.
The Development of the Castelli Gabba Jersey
Rewind four years from that fateful 2013 Milan-San Remo race and you will find a collection of hardy, northern European pro bike riders sat in a room with Castelli, as the brand attempted to solve the seemingly diametrically opposed requirements of racing and weather protection.
Up until this point, wet weather cycling clothing had taken its cues from the world of mountaineering where total protection was required, but Steve Smith, Castelli General Manager, realised that this was the wrong approach when Norwegian professional Gabriel Rasch introduced his personal, cobbled together, non-waterproof race jacket to the group. Rasch’s inspiration is still recognised in the Gabba’s name and the small Norwegian flag that can be seen on the current third-generation Gabba jersey.
Before the Gabba the choice was simple; wear a race jersey and get cold and wet from the rain, or put on a race cape and get slightly less cold but still get wet from sweat and waste lots of watts as the light fabric flapped about in the wind. Smith realised that racing cyclists were producing sufficient heat whilst riding that a bit of water getting through was of no consequence and that it was far more important for them to be quick and comfortable than it was for them to be totally dry.
Furthermore, as any rider knows, it is virtually impossible to stay dry when working hard up a hill or in a race no matter what clothing is being worn. Smith concentrated on designing an item of clothing that would keep riders dry enough, warm enough and still fast enough to win races in the worst of conditions, hence the tagline ‘Foul weather race equipment’ that is carried by the Gabba today.
Castelli Gabba Jersey Technology
Smith’s ideas became reality with the inception of Gore’s new Windstopper X-Lite Plus, a weather-resistant, breathable membrane fabric that could be cut and sewn into a three-pocketed, close-fitting race jersey, hence melding the worlds of speed and protection, just as he had envisaged.
When Heinrich Haussler was given an original Gabba as part of the Cervelo Test Team before the 2010 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad race he uttered words probably never heard before from a bike racer: “Let’s just hope it rains on the way to Ghent tomorrow”, such was his faith in the product. The new Gore fabric coupled with high, snug collar, close fit and long drop tail meant no more fighting with rain capes in the wind or suffering capeless in the cold to maintain an aero advantage.
A testament to Castelli's original design is just how little has changed in three generations of Gabba jerseys. The cut has become a little more refined as Gore has developed stretchier Windstopper fabrics, and the DWR treatment is now more environmentally friendly as new technologies become available, but the piece has stayed absolutely true to the original design brief and remains a jersey that is perfect for racing or riding hard in inclement weather.