Every sport has World Championships – and they all give out medals. But in cycling, when you win a World Championship, you also get the 'Rainbow Jersey'. As a cyclist it is one of the highest achievements you can get. It is up there with the Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France as one of the most recognisable icons of cycling.
As a winner of the Rainbow Jersey – you are required to wear the jersey in all competitions (of the same discipline you won it for) for the following year. So if you win it in the time trial – you must wear the Rainbow Stripes for all time trial events for the next year. Same for Road or Track events (if you win it in those disciplines). And when the year is up, you are entitled to have Rainbow Bands on your sleeves and collar or your regular jersey for the rest of your career.
It is a badge of honour that few ever get to bear. And so it it sought after with great passion by all that participate at the highest levels of the sport. The Rainbow Stripes are also given out to the Paracycling category winners and their achievements are looked upon as highly as those in the able-bodied community.
To an outsider, or someone not intimate with the history of cycling, it must seem odd – the drive to wear a rainbow-coloured jersey. But to those of us that have the chance – once a year – to compete for this coveted piece of clothing, it is a driving force that can't be deterred or set aside.
And the feeling of stepping onto the podium, and pulling that jersey over your head for the first time, is something that will stay with me for a lifetime – in my heart and on my sleeves.