The Rainbow Jersey – A history of the World Championships


Humble beginnings

Racing on two wheels has been around for over 150 years with the first recorded cycling race a short but sharp 1200 metre event held in Paris in 1868, and the now famous Tour de France hosting its first edition in 1903 – yet it took until 1921 for the first UCI Cycling World Championships to take place.

The inaugural competition was only open to amateur cyclists, and it was won by Swede, Gunnar Sköld, who completed the 190 kilometre route in six hours and 18 minutes. The amateur version of the race continued for six years before the UCI allowed amateurs and professionals to compete together in the 1927 edition of the race which was held in Nürburgring, Germany.

The rainbow bands

Of course, the World Championships is synonymous with the famous rainbow jersey that it awards to the winner – who gets to wear the jersey for the next year. With its blue, red, black, yellow and green stripes placed horizontally across the white background; the UCI chose the colours to mirror those on the rings of the Olympics.

That first jersey was awarded to Alfredo Binda who won the professional title in 1927 over a tough and testing parcours, while Jean Aerts impressed and won the amateur classification after finishing fifth overall in the race.

More racing action – a festival of cycling

It took until 1958 for the first Women’s race to be held, where Elsy Jacobs stormed to the title in Reims, France – inspiring many across the globe. The Championships then further expanded in 1962 with the inclusion of team time trials which saw national teams compete, before they were replaced with an individual effort against the clock in 1994.

However, team time trials would make their return to the Championships in 2012 with the introduction of the race for trade teams – offering another element to the week where traditionally riders competed in national teams. The final edition of that classification would take place in 2018 before a new mixed team time relay format was introduced the following year; seeing three women and three men compete from the same nation.

The recent Championships in Wollongong had junior, U23 and elite Men and Women compete over a week of racing – making for a festival of cycling.

Team DSM at the World Championships – Roll of honour

Over the years since its inception, the team has often shone at the World Championships – taking several medals and jerseys. A standout performance was in 2017 where the team dominated both the team time trial for men and women in Bergen; a superb result after a lot of hard work behind the scenes from everyone to get to that moment.

Men’s Road Race: Michael Matthews – 3rd (2017), March Hirschi – 3rd (2020)
Men’s U23 Road Race: Lennard Kämna – 2nd (2017), Marc Hirschi – 1st (2018)
Men’s Time Trial: Tom Dumoulin – 3rd (2014), 1st (2017), 2nd (2018)
Men’s Team Time Trial: 1st (2017), 2nd (2018)
Women’s Team Time Trial: 1st (2017), 3rd (2018)
Women’s Time Trial: Ellen van Dijk – 3rd (2018)
Women’s U23 Road Race: Pfeiffer Georgi – 2nd (2022)