The early 1980s were a time of transition for pro cycling. Synthetics were invading the pro peloton. Some loved it, others hated it, and nobody was on the fence. Lycra shorts were quick to be adopted. But jerseys were another story. Assos, always on the forefront of technology, came up with lightweight synthetic tops that offered something for both sponsors and the riders. Those days are long gone, but Assos is celebrating those innovative years with their Heritage Pack jerseys.
This year, they're turning back the clock and re-issuing limited edition runs of the jerseys that the COOP-Mercier and Renault-Elf teams of France and Federazione Italiana (aka the Italian National Team) wore when toe-clips still ruled and cycling shoes looked like ballet slippers. Once these jerseys are gone from Assos' inventory, they're not coming back.
We loved the Renault-Elf and COOP jerseys. The colors were bold. The patterns were nearly impossible to replicate in wool. The jerseys worked better than wool in the rain, in the cold, in the heat. And they were worn by some of the best riders in the world. Renault was the super-team of the early 1980s. Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon, and Greg LeMond were the biggest stars, but they also had Jonathan Boyer, Marc Madiot, Charly Mottet, Vincent Barteau, Pascal Poisson, Jean-Rene Bernadeau. They won the Giro, the Tour, the Vuelta, the Dauphine, Tour L'Avenir, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne Liege, Fleche Wallonne, and just about every other race worth winning. Mercier wasn't quite at the same level, but the team was a force in cycling for a mindboggling 48 years from 1935 until it folded in 1983. In the COOP colors, it was lead by Joop Zoetemelk and Kim Andersen, Joop for the mountains and Kim for the flats.
The Italiana jersey is definitely more conservative, but a big leap for La Squadra Azzura. They were known for their solid blue wool strip with the embroidered aegis just below the zip; Assos upended years of tradition and certainly started hundreds of bitter polemicos across the peninsula. The Azzuri have always been a force to be reckoned with at the World Championships, and they've mopped up more world championships and more world championship medals than any other country. Just in the 1980s, they were only shut out of the medals twice at the pro worlds, in 1983 and 1989 (interestingly, the years of LeMond's wins), and won three titles, with Saronni, Argentin, and Fondriest.
The Heritage Pack jerseys might not look like Assos of today. They're not. The cut and fit is what Assos offered up when these jerseys were new. And like the jerseys, the cut and fit were cutting edge for their time. Look at the collar, the sleeves, the length; these were big deals back then. Assos was interested in sourcing the original material as well, but the textile producer has long since been out of business. They tried to replicate the original feel and look, but with a more modern microfiber. It wicks just like a contemporary jersey, but the hand and the stretch are definitely retro. There's elastic at the waist, but none at the sleeve. The Assos A is on the zipper pull, just as it should be.
The Assos Heritage Pack is so named because it comes in a decorative box with a jersey, a matching cycling cap, and socks.
The Assos Heritage Pack comes in COOP-Mercier, Federazione Italiana, and Renault-Elf. Sizes run from Small to TIR.