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GABBA JACKET
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Castelli is very well known in cycling for making some of the very best winter cycling jackets available. For more than a decade, Castelli has been at the forefront of winter cycling apparel innovation and today products like the Gabba, Perfetto, Apha, Idro and Slicker Pro Jackets can be found at club rides, sportives and races all around the world, especially when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

We've all heard the stories about pro riders wearing Gabba jackets with the logos blacked out with a marker pen trying to sneak it past their sponsors, and in an era when the only weatherproofing available was either 'more layers' or a rain cape that also resembled a parachute, the practice was so common in fact that we in 2014 launched a limited pro edition stealth black box including a high quality Sharpie pen to black out the logos!

The Gabba earned Castelli a reputation, it was the first softshell jacket that was fitted like an aero race jersey, kept most of the rain at bay, kept the heat in and breathable. The Gabba was revolutionary and many brands have copied it since, but millions still seek out the Castelli name when winter calls, and in this episode will find out why.

The Cervélo TestTeam Gabba focus group:
Gabriel Rasch
Heinrich Haussler
Marcel Wyss
Thor Hushovd
Daniel Lloyd
Philip Deignan
Serge Pauwels
Roger Hammond
Jeremy Hunt

TOPICS COVERED & TRANSCRIPT

(00:00) Welcome
(02:02) Gabba Story
(04:40) How it all began
(06:48) Prototype Testing
(09:06) First Race, Game-Changer
(09:34) Gabba Name
(11:41) The Day Everything Changes
(12:58) Evolution, Refinement, innovation
(15:05) Gabba RoS 2
(16:12) Innovation, part of Castelli’s DNA
(17:14) Rider Feedback
(18:36) Ending


STEVE SMITH
So back in 2009, our sponsorship of Cervelo Test Team, at that time rain clothing was terrible.

GABRIEL RASCH
Cycling clothing in general, there wasn't so much thinking about the aero. It was very traditional. I remember it was plastic rain jackets, being tents. You had neon rain jackets, but they were all really big rain jackets. There wasn't much thinking about the aero or even comfort.

SOREN JENSEN
Welcome to the Castelli podcast, the show where we delve into the world of Castelli and uncover the stories from the people behind the brand and the iconic product innovations. We'll explore what inspires us to create the most performance-driven and comfortable cycling clothing, all aimed at helping cyclists around the world go further in greater comfort.  

I’m your host Soren Jensen, Castelli marketing manager, and on today's show, we’ll delve into the history of one of the most iconic Castelli products, the Gabba jacket. We’ll delve into how everything started, where the "Gabba" name originated, its ongoing technical evolution, and more, together with Castelli’s Brand Manager, Steve Smith, Andrea Peron, from our Race Division, and of course the heart and soul behind the Gabba product idea, the Norwegian and former pro, Gabriel Rasch.

Last but not least, don’t miss out on the Gabba RoS 2 Jacket giveaway on our Instagram and Facebook page. Check out our pinned Gabba post, and leave your favorite Gabba moment or story from this podcast episode in the comments. We have 4 Gabbas up for grabs. So head over to @castellicycling on instagram and Facebook.  

Now, let's embark on a journey together through the 14-year history of Gabba Jacket, as we strive for continuous innovation, refinement, and development of this remarkable garment. Born from the demands of pro cyclists, the Gabba quickly became an essential component of every serious cyclist's clothing arsenal for racing and training. On its initial commercial release in 2011, the Gabba slotted quietly into Castelli’s existing product line, together with its long-sleeved counterpart drawing little attention from the general public and going largely unnoticed.

However, something in the pro peloton was beginning to stir in early 2010. Word had quickly spread about an unknown windproof and water-repellent aero-looking jersey being worn by the Cervélo TestTeam. Riders from rival teams were eager to get their hands on these mysterious Gabba garments and at Castelli, we’re overwhelmed with requests from them. A deluge of wet, cold conditions over the following few Classics seasons led to the increasing presence of blacked-out Gabbas across start lines. Often bought out of riders’ own pockets or acquired illicitly to replace existing sponsor garments, the underground Gabba revolution was gaining momentum. 

And after the 2013 Milan-San Remo race, where biting cold, snow blizzards, and freezing conditions led to the majority of riders opting for illicit Gabbas, the Gabba's enduring tagline, 'Foul weather race equipment,' was born. Throughout its various updates over the years, the Gabba and Perfetto products have consistently delivered exceptional performance in wet and cold conditions, and become a part of Castelli's Rain or Shine (RoS) family, offering an elevated level of foul-weather protection while preserving the breathability that is integral to the garment's DNA. The guiding idea behind RoS is that you simply layer up according to the temperature expected without worrying about what the weather decides to throw at you.

GABRIEL RASCH
I remember right away it was Kørn-Brussel-Kørn. It was 3-4 degrees. We had a tailwind out to Kørn and a headwind back. And it's the coldest day I've had on my bike ever. I think it was like 15 guys finishing the race. Maximum there were bike riders in normal buses. And there were bike riders in cars everywhere and just trying to survive really. Yeah and if I remember correctly we had three or four guys in the first ten and all with the Gabba jackets.

SOREN JENSEN
Born from the demands of pro cyclists, the Gabba quickly became an essential component of every serious cyclist's clothing arsenal for racing and training.

SOREN JENSEN
On its initial commercial release in 2011, the Gabba slotted quietly into Castelli's assisting product line, together with its long-sleeved counterpart, drawing little attention from the general public and going largely unnoticed. However, something in the pro peloton was beginning to stir in early 2010. Word had quickly spread about an unknown, windproof and water-repellent, aero-looking jersey being worn by the Cervélo test team. Riders from rival teams were eager to get their hands on these mysterious Gappa garments, and at Castelli we were overwhelmed with requests from them. Wet and cold conditions over the following few classic seasons led to the increasing presence of blacked-out Gabbas across the start lines. Often bought out of riders' own pockets or acquired illicitly to replace existing sponsor garments, the underground Gabba revolution was gaining momentum. And after the 2013 Milan San Remo, where biting cold snow blizzards and freezing conditions led to the majority of the riders opting for Gappas, the Gappa Enduring Tagline Foul Weather Race Equipment was born. Steve and Gabriel, thanks for joining me on the show. Let's dive straight into how everything started back in 2009 and Steve why don't

STEVE SMITH
you start and tell us about the initial idea. We organized a focus group during the Brixia tour in August. We had oddly enough at that race all eight guys at the race were from cold wet countries so there was Gabriel Rasch and Tor Hussolt from Norway. We had Jeremy Hunt and Phil Damien. We got these guys around after the stage and we talked about their cold and wet clothing. And we spent the first 45 minutes talking about the rain jacket they had at the time.

GABRIEL RASCH
So when Stine came to Brick Seltzer, I had a rain vest from Credit Agricole.

STEVE SMITH
And then he goes up to his room and he comes back with this green waterproof vest. Green because it was leftover from when he rode for Crédit Agricole.

GABRIEL RASCH
Agricole. I remember I had this rain jacket that I had stitched together with pins and kind of making my own prototype, my own version. And it was

STEVE SMITH
made with this thick plasticky type of fabric. It was cut. I don't know what I got.

GABRIEL RASCH
I got a football. It was nothing fancy. I'm not sure if you would see any pro rider riding with that anymore.

STEVE SMITH
He had actually taken a marker and blacked out the credit diagram label and he said, when it's raining and not so cold I just use this. And I looked at it and I was like, oh, I'm sorry.

GABRIEL RASCH
I had this vest with me and I showed Steve, look, this is aero, but I can't breathe.

STEVE SMITH
It's too tight, but it's aero. So you know you explain that it's better to just keep your core body warm you're gonna be wet anyway because you're working hard you're racing you're you know whether you're sweating from the inside or a little bit of moisture is coming up from the outside that's not the important thing important thing is to keep warm enough but you'll still be able to race that was the initial idea. And a Gappa seat was planned. When we did the internal development we finally thought we had something that was close to what Gabriel wanted. And we made up 9 or 10 samples for the team that was doing the classics. So here we are, at the end of February 2010.

SOREN JENSEN
So less than 6 months after Gabriel's rough idea, I remember Steve and I jumped on a plane to Belgium carrying the first Gabba prototypes. Which had only been put to test internally at that stage, but we knew that we were onto something groundbreaking, a game changer that would revolutionize our pro cyclist dress for wet and cold conditions. Gabriel, do you still remember your first impression or thoughts from that moment when Steve and I met all of you at the team hotel and when you tried on the first Gabba prototype?

GABRIEL RASCH
It was like going from 36 spoke wheels to high carbon rims on the bike. And the others were still riding with the 36 spoke wheels. It was like riding on a summer day, but the feeling on the bike was the same. It wasn't like you had a lot of extra resistance and you could feel advantaged directly.

SOREN JENSEN
Yeah, and then the feedback completely exceeded our expectations. I especially remember Heinrich Haussler saying something like let's hope it rains on the way to Gent tomorrow because we're gonna go on the front and drill it. You know the biggest advantage is guys with their rain jackets are flapping around and saving so much power and energy. 

CERVELO TEST TEAM RIDERS
The best bit of kit I've ever worn. I'm pretty sure they're all gonna make it for the world and a copy of the book.

STEVE SMITH
They hear the riders hoping it rains, so that they have a huge advantage over everybody else with this jacket on. What really surprised me is that we give each rider the jacket, and they immediately take it out, and they put it on, and you see these guys like, oh, this is cool. I've never before, never since, seen riders respond in this way to a new garment.

SOREN JENSEN
It was also the first racing debut of the Gabba during the weekend of Omloop het-Nieuwsblad and Kuurn-Brussels-Kuurn. What was the reaction of the other teams and riders when you guys showed up at the start line wearing this short sleeved aero fitting jacket while everyone else were standing in their bulky ring capes?

GABRIEL RASCH
Everybody was looking at us, you know, nobody said anything but they were all looking at us thinking what is this.

SOREN JENSEN
And the prototypes were completely black with small white heat transfer sponsor logos tight-fitting, aerodynamic, warm and fully protected from whatever mother nature would throw at the riders.

STEVE SMITH
All the other riders immediately, even other teams, recognized that that was a jacket that was changing the game. All of a sudden you had to have that jacket if you want to compete in a cold or wet.

SOREN JENSEN

Steve let me stop you for a second. Let's explain first to our listeners why the jacket is named Gabba.

STEVE SMITH
Based on the success of those first races, the team was enthusiastic so we made other bats for the rest of the team. So, San Remo, three weeks after the debut, walk into the hotel, carry this big box and like three guys from the team and jump up. Is that the Gappa jacket? So the team was already calling it the Gabba jacket internally. At that point only 9 or 10 guys had the jacket on the team. Everybody else knew about it and so they were anxious to get their hands on it. So this is the start of the Gabba name coming onto it.

SOREN JENSEN
Because Gabriel's nickname on the team was Gabba, what wasn't your teammates. Is calling it the Rasch jacket at first?


GABRIEL RASCH
So when Castelli gave us the prototypes in Belgium, all the riders started asking on the race radio, can I get my Rasch jacket? Can I get my Rasch jacket? Every time somebody was calling for this jacket, the DS was finding my race jacket because of my name, Rasch. So we thought, okay, we can't call it the Rasch jacket. So that's why it's called the Gabba jackets.

SOREN JENSEN
Yeah, so the mechanic would always pull out your jacket from the race train bag. I assume you got asked a lot by riders from other teams if you could get them a Gabba.

GABRIEL RASCH
There were a lot of riders asking me about this jacket. The first two, three years if I could get them a jacket without any logos.

SOREN JENSEN
Yeah, I remember receiving messages from you asking if you could help this or that rider out. When was the first Gabba introduced to the public and other teams?

STEVE SMITH
The first time that these jackets were actually available to be purchased was in winter 2011 and Yeah, the first season we actually have it written down in an old catalog. We sold 268 Gappa jackets in the entire world So I felt quite proud of myself to see all the appraisal by them because between winter 2011 summer 2012 through that period, in the whole world, we sold about 1,000 jackets. The day that kind of everything changed, Milan-San Remo, 2013, this is the day that it snowed on San Remo, it rained the entire time, and half the Peloton is in Gabba jackets where they've taken a marker and canceled out the logos, but it was fantastic times for us. Really, there was only about 1,000 jackets out in the marketplace, of which probably 150 at least are the pros.

SOREN JENSEN
With half of the Peloton wearing Gabbas and the word spread quickly to amateur ranks, the Gabba burst into the global spotlight. It was also the first time other brands began producing their own versions of the Gabba. What were you initial thoughts or reactions? It was always surprising, sometimes even infuriating to see other brands just doing the exact copy.

STEVE SMITH
It's like they can't really, they can't come up with anything original. But then we also, internally, we came out with an update to the original Gabba. We did Gabba 2 and Gabba 3. And each time we sat down to improve the Gabba, we ended up really just doing minor little differences to it, changing the logos on the chest, changing the drain holes in the pocket, and even we had troubles really improving on the original until the Gabba 4.

SOREN JENSEN
Andrea Perron, welcome to the show. I remember you as the person responsible for collecting the riders feedback and overseeing the testing of new and higher performing membrane fabrics. Could you tell us more about that? We asked our providers how we can improve the Gabba from the previous version. The overall request was to have a more water resistant product keeping the same breathability. So we conducted lots of blind testing over one year of timing in any kind of weather condition and eventually the winning choice for the fabric came up to be the Gore-Tex Infineon wind stopper. Steve, in addition to collaborating with our partner at Gore to enhance the performance aspects of the Gore-Tex Infineon fabric, making it more stretchy, windproof and water-repellent, what other updates were incorporated into the product development?

STEVE SMITH
So with Gabba 4 though, is when we really sat down and said, look, what can really be improved about the Gabba? The first thing we came up with was significantly improving the water repellency. We felt we can get something that's almost waterproof that can really keep you dry in quite nasty conditions. So we worked in Gore on updating the fabrics trying to get to something that was... You could really race in hard rain all day long and stay comfortably dry on the inside. At least from water coming from the outside, you're still sweating from the inside of course And then we also worked on and we actually gave it for the first time the seam sealing over the shoulders We actually moved it to to a sort of a body mapping where the front facing fabrics are a little bit warmer And back facing fabrics are a little bit lighter. We moved it to bigger pockets so that you can go in with a gloved hand and then the jacket was also expanded into the Perfetto family. So within that, we also worked on the little details across the family, from the vest to the long sleeve to a convertible jacket, where you really have a short sleeve Gabba, with a zipper where you can add on the sleeves and turn it into a full on rain jacket.

SOREN JENSEN
And the latest fifth generation Gabba RoS 2 was introduced to the market about a year ago, maintaining the breathability and wind protection that have always made the Gabba so good. It uses two separate Castelli exclusive Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper fabrics, warmer and 100% windproof over the front, shoulders and sleeves along with a lighter, more breathable and stretchier fabric on the back that is sufficiently protective against the water that hits your back. It features the world famous YKK Vislon Zipper with both top and bottom openings for more adjustable ventilation and the seams at the top of the shoulders have been moved from the shoulders to the back which also enhanced impermeability and three rear pockets to hold more gear and keep everything in place. And listen up this is also the Gabba you could win if you leave your comment on the pinned Instagram or Facebook Gabba post. Again we have four Gabbas up for grabs and the deadline of the contest is October 31st. Steve before we wrap up this episode, how would you describe the whole Gabba product development process?

STEVE SMITH
I think the Gabba exemplifies what we try to do in Castelli. Castelli is made as a performance brand. We want to focus on finding innovative ways to make cycling more fun and especially faster. And this is a case of we had a rider with a key insight that led to a product that met the needs of the riders, of the pro riders, but here in Sloan, there's so many cyclists that continue to hear this is the most amazing product I've ever used. That's what we try to do every day, is try to find those insights for the pro riders, but also for all cyclists of ideas of how we can make even brand new types of garments that have never existed before that can change the way you ride.

SOREN JENSEN
Over the years we have collected a big archive of Gabba photos, video clips and interviews. Here's a small selection of interesting comments from pro riders when we asked them about their favorite cycling garment or had them put a few words on the Gabba.

CERVELO TEST TEAM RIDERS
You know it's the jealousy of the whole peloton.

CERVELO TEST TEAM RIDERS
Every other team wants to have it.

PRO-CYCLIST
In the spring, most of the time in Europe it's really cold, so it's a big advantage to wear a Gabba jacket. You stay warm in the final, and that's the big take for racing in the final.

CERVELO TEST TEAM RIDERS
Well, I mean, I think it's kind of unanimous in the team that our favorite product is the

PRO-CYCLIST
Gabba jersey.

PRO-CYCLIST
Well, we have the Gabba jersey, and it's the best piece of rain equipment that we own. And actually, you'll see a lot of other riders in the Pro Peloton wearing it, an unmarked version, that they black out themselves because...

PRO-CYCLIST
Came to one of the early season races back in the day, one of the classics, we were sponsored by Sky. And, f***k. And waiting on the bus for us on each of our seats as we walked in was one of these plain black items of clothing. Lovely and warm despite the horrific conditions. Lovely and warm but boy was he in some trouble. Yeah my favorite Castelli product would be the Gabba.

PRO-CYCLIST
And yeah of course it's Gabba.

PRO-CYCLIST
I think it's Gabba.

PRO-CYCLIST
Maybe the Gabba.

PRO-CYCLIST
The Gabba jacket. 

PRO-CYCLIST
The Gabba jacket.

CERVELO TEST TEAM RIDERS
I'm really glad I'm finally able to use it officially.

CERVELO TEST TEAM RIDERS
I'm pretty sure they're all going to make it for, they're all going to copy it.

CERVELO TEST TEAM RIDERS
The best critic here I've ever worn.

SOREN JENSEN
Thanks to Gabriel, Steve and Andrea for taking us behind the scenes and sharing their Gabba stories, insights and experience. If you enjoyed this episode, please make sure to subscribe, give us a 5 star rating to help us be seen by other cyclists than the algorithm and if you have a Castelli product related question or topic you would like us to take up on a future episode shoot us a line at podcast at castellicycling.com or hit us up on episode shoot us a line at podcast at castellicycling.com or hit us up on socials. Thanks again for tuning in and ride safe!
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