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Reviewed: Pearl Izumi’s USA Pro Challenge leader’s jersey

Pearl Izumi’s Team Speed Mesh jersey is designed for the pros — until now, it’s only been available to them — and its hyper-slim cut, all-black look, and aerodynamic features make it an excellent option for the unattached racing privateer, or anyone looking for a little edge on the weeknight group ride.

Pearl has returned to the USA Pro Challenge as the official clothing sponsor. It is making the very same jerseys that will be worn by the race leaders, and the Pearl-sponsored BMC Racing Team, available to the public. The Team Speed Mesh jersey will set you back $200, and is only on sale in Pearl Izumi’s booth at the USA Pro Challenge, though the company plans to roll it out as part of its custom program next year. The design is the product of Pearl Izumi’s Speed Shop, where much of the development takes place on new high-end items with plenty of input from Pearl’s pro riders, especially team BMC.

The Team Speed Mesh is unquestionably a race jersey, clinging tightly to the torso as a consistent reminder of those last few New Belgium beers from the night before. Sizing up at least one size is required to even get the zipper closed.

I am just shy of six feet tall, with a longer torso than average and broad shoulders — in the world of cycling, anyway. I typically wear a medium jersey from every brand. In the case of the Team Speed Mesh jersey, I up-size to a large, and it’s still one of the tightest fitting jerseys in my wardrobe.

The Team Speed Mesh jersey’s name is an excellent descriptor of the piece. The mesh panels on the front and back are extremely airy, which is greatly appreciated for keeping cool. That mesh also lessens our desire to unzip the jersey, which makes the Team Speed Mesh a faster option — a zipped-up jersey is a faster jersey.

All that mesh also means that your back is exposed to the sun, so you need to spray on a decent helping of sunscreen underneath the fabric. On a particularly hot and sunny day on the PeopleForBikes Ride on Chicago, I even reapplied sunscreen halfway through the ride, just in case.

The sleeves have strategically placed seams tucked into the front of the armpit and then wrapping over the shoulder blades. Pearl intends to keep air moving smoothly over the rider’s back with this design. The sleeves are cut fairly long, almost to the elbow. The cuffs are cut cleanly and don’t lift up off the skin; they are not the traditional rolled-and-stitched seam found on most jerseys. The sleeve design is one of the key elements that separates from the Team Speed Mesh jersey from other high end jerseys in the Pearl line.

For now, the Team Speed Mesh jersey is only available in all black, which is a nice approach for a jersey with such an unforgiving cut. For those not attending the USAPC, Pearl’s $150 Speed jersey is available online. Though this non-Team model uses different fabrics and tailoring, with shorter sleeves and more traditional cuff designs, it’s Pearl’s most race-ready, easily-accessible jersey.

Retail price: $200
Availability: 50 available for now at the USA Pro Challenge
What we like: A no-nonsense race-cut jersey for the privateer racer and lunch ride world champ
What we don’t: Limited availability and we need a buddy to apply sunscreen to our backs on sunny days