The rise of Sportful cycling
12 April 2022
By Nicki Giles
Although founded in 1972 by Giordano Cremonese, who spotted a need for hardy skiwear after entering the legendary 70km Marcialonga cross-country ski race and designing his own weatherproof suit, Sportful’s origins go much further back.
Founded as a weaving mill in 1946 by Giordano’s parents, Orlinda and Irma, Sportful cycling’s parent company, Manifattura Valcismon, had already branched into international underwear manufacture. Everything Giordano needed to focus on sportswear – skilled workers, knitting machines, industry knowledge and a personal understanding of what sportspeople require from their kit – was in place.
Since competitive skiers and cyclists look for similar qualities in their clothing, including freedom with an aerodynamic fit and protection coupled with breathability, Sportful branched into cycling clothing in 1985. By 1988, the brand had secured its first sponsorship deal with Alfa Lum.
Is Sportful a good cycling brand?
Recently, Saddleback launched a survey to discover what determines whether cyclists choose Sportful cycling apparel. Nearly 90% of respondents had heard of Sportful, but just over half had bought kit, while a similar number said they didn’t know enough about the brand.
However, 83% who’d tried Sportful would buy it again and recommend it, while 80 to 95% rated it higher than 8 out of 10 for quality, performance and style. Not surprising, considering the brand’s history and the pro team collaborations that keep it at the cutting edge of cycling clothing.
The brand’s cycling kit, especially the Sportful Fiandre collection, Sportful bib shorts and Sportful cycling jerseys, has featured on cyclists’ wish lists for quite some time. After all, the brand is an Italian sporting institution.
Pro team collaborations for Sportful
First came victories for Sportful cycling with Maurizio Fondriest, then from 1994 the brand sponsored Mapei. With talents like Bartoli and Ballerini, Mapei dominated in the UCI rankings and swept the Classics for years. Then, from 2002 to 2010, Sportful helped the Italian National Team to claim six World Championships and an Olympic gold.
More recently came a collaboration with Saxo Bank, which saw Andy Schleck win the Tour de France in 2010, Contador cycle to victory in two Vuelta a Españas, then the Giro d’Italia in 2015, and Sagan win the World Road Race Championships that same year. Sagan then won Tour of Flanders and topped the individual WorldTour rankings for 2016, having won the points classification of the Tour from 2012 to 2016.
Sportful cycling followed Peter Sagan to Bora Hansgrohe in 2017, supporting the team as it secured numerous Grand Tour stage wins. Bora achieved third place in the UCI WorldTour Team classification in 2018, then in 2019 the points jersey at both the Giro and the Tour – the latter thanks to Sagan – plus second place in the UCI WorldTour Team classification. The team also claimed the points jersey with Sagan at the Tour in 2018, as well as at the Giro in 2021.
Finally, Sportful signed a 10-year contract with Sagan in 2022 and followed him to TotalEnergies.
How collaborations make Sportful cycling clothing better
Team collaborations aren’t just about displaying Sportful’s cycling clothes. After all, the pros are not just renowned names, they’re cyclists – and extremely competitive and discerning ones!
Andrea Peron, the TT specialist turned Manifattura Valcismon promoter, stated in the group’s 70th Anniversary book, La Stoffa Dei Campioni, “The champions are the best testers. Their diligence is personal and professional. They try the products in training and in racing, subjecting them to conditions of maximum stress; then they can say exactly what does and does not work… And certain impressions become insights, and you work on those, together, to find new solutions.”
Pro cyclists care about marginal gains, all-weather protection and comfort, because their training sessions and races happen in all conditions and are long and intense. If they’re happy with a product, it will definitely meet the average cyclist’s needs.
Take the Sportful Bomber Suit. Formulated with reduced seams, mesh sleeves and soft seamless leg bands, this fast suit was refined following wind tunnel testing and road testing by Bora Hansgrohe. In 2018, Peter Sagan proved the bomber suit’s worth by winning Paris Roubaix, and the following year the speed suit was launched for consumers.
Now several of its features, such as mesh sleeves and raw-cut leg endings, are found in products like Sportful bib shorts and Sportful jerseys.
What sets Sportful’s cycling clothes apart?
As mentioned, Sportful cycling has over 70 years of tailoring and fine Italian craftsmanship behind it. Giordano Cremonese grew up in the Dolomites and Sportful’s clothing is designed and made there in Fonzaso, Veneto. It’s centred on the area’s native pursuits – hence the name ‘Sportful’, devised after Cremonese opened a dictionary and found the word meant ‘sportingly’. Still family owned, the brand is now run by the third Cremonese generation, Dario, Gioia, Alberto and Alessio, and Steve Smith.
A fixture of the pro peloton, its style reflects another meaning of the word, ‘playful’, which is why the charismatic Sagan is a Sportful lifetime ambassador. Like him, the brand aims to be fun as well as competitive, so it’s known for bold colours and patterns.
The brand also recognises that ‘sport’ means different things to different cyclists. Just like Belgium, Britain is known for changeable conditions, and with the Sportful Fiandre collection in your wardrobe – particularly the windproof, waterproof and breathable Sportful Fiandre Pro Jacket – you’ll be ready to face all weathers.
Looking for adventure and dying to tackle some gravel or off-road tracks? The Sportful Dirty Roads collection, with its fun and wayfaring Giara line and racy, adventurous Supergiara line, has you covered. More concerned about a dry commute? The Sportful Metro collection will keep you looking clean and stylish. Or, if you are obsessed with speed, deck yourself out in the same cycling apparel as the pros wear with the Bodyfit Pro and Sportful TotalEnergies collections.
Sportful today – what to wear cycling in spring
If you’re feeling inspired to test Sportful’s kit, we have just the cycling outfit for this season which can be augmented by arm warmers, leg warmers and waterproof shoe covers. The Sportful Pro Base Layer is cut to bolster your Sportful cycling jersey on cool mornings or replace it on warmer days. Available with or without sleeves, it adds warmth without feeling heavy. Vertical ribs optimise the fit and allow air to circulate, while fun colours and a graphic print let it double as outerwear.
Layered on top, the Sportful Classic Bib Shorts feature airy mesh bib straps and a plush, low-seam waist. Since Sportful cycling designs for the pros, the seat pad facilitates movement while offering ample cushioning and the body is made from form-fitting 210 g/m2 Lycra®, while grip dots and silicone strips stabilise the legs. The Sportful Classic Women's Shorts offer the same racing features and materials bar the straps, built around a woman-specific seat pad, making them ideal for training or racing in.
Pull on the Sportful Matchy Jersey last, with its solid colours and minimalist design that will complement your existing kit. It’s practical too, with a smooth, element-resistant front and a light, breathable back. Alternatively, don the vivid, breathable Sportful Flare Women’s Jersey, patterned with diagonal micro-perforations. Mesh side panels and sleeves further improve the ventilation, while grip tape anchors the back. Both Sportful cycling jerseys have three expandable pockets, while the Flare Jersey is race-ready with a mesh number holder.
To choose your spring outfit or learn about Sportful’s exceptional cycling apparel, browse the Sportful SS22 collection now.