Paying homage to the origins of our name, Rapha is proud to partner with St Raphaël on a special edition collection that celebrates our collective ties to the world’s greatest sport.
26 June 2023
Cycling sponsors are iconic. Inextricably linked to their respective teams, their names have accompanied some of the sport’s greatest moments – immortalised alongside the riders who bear their logos. And from tile grout to televisions, the jerseys of the pro peloton have seen it all. But in the halcyon days of the 1950s and 1960s, it was an unlikely extra-sportif (non-bike industry) sponsor that would inspire more than just victories on cycling’s biggest stage.
LE GRAND FUSIL
The quinine-based apéritif, St Raphaël, was one of cycling’s famous post-war sponsors. Invented in Paris in 1830, this amber-coloured elixir lent its name to a team containing, rather fittingly, one Raphaël Géminiani. Affectionately known as Le Grand Fusil (The Big Gun), Géminiani went on to manage the team, signing riders such as Rudi Altig, Roger Rivière, and Tom Simpson. Of all the talent brought in by Géminiani, however, none seem to capture the spirit of the age quite so well as Anquetil, who joined in 1962, and was fundamental to the team’s success.
WHAT’S IN A NAME
Alongside the main Saint Raphaël team, there also existed a feeder squad called Rapha-Géminiani, whose name was taken from their gregarious manager and another drink bottled by St Raphaël – Rapha. With distinctive typography and a brand image associated with the ‘savoir-vivre’ of France’s post-war glory years and the golden age of road racing, the name Rapha seems forever destined to define a certain cycling style. And more than 40 years on, in 2004, it served as the perfect moniker for a newcomer to the industry determined to breathe new life into the sport.
“Rapha was born from my passionate love of cycling and, for me, the natural home of road racing has always been the South of France. When I close my eyes and think of racing, I imagine the colours, sounds, and smells of the peloton passing through a town somewhere in Provence or the Côte d'Azur. A town like St Raphaël, in fact. When I discovered that the eponymous apéritif brand sponsored the greatest team of cycling’s glory years, I couldn't get St Raphaël and its sister brand, Rapha, out of my mind. It had to be the name for my brand.”