While you will never see a rider at the Tour de France on a different brand of bicycle from his teammates, shoes are a different matter. Since fit is such an individualized matter, and comfort at the foot-to-pedal junction is essential, teams will occasionally let riders wear something besides what the team sponsor provides.
The other critical touchpoint of course is the saddle; we have shown a few examples of riders on Selle Italia-sponsored teams using Specialized, or Specialized-sponsored riders using Fizik. With shoes and saddles there isn't a universal solution; it's all about what fits each rider best.
Here, we take a look at some of the unique and interesting shoes on the feet of the Tour de France peloton.
In addition to non-sponsor correct shoes or special-graphic editions, we also spotted at least three models that are not yet available. Bontrager's lace-up shoe, believed to be called the Classique, made an appearance, as did what looks to be the successor to Shimano's R320 shoe. Perhaps to be called the R321, the Shimano shoe features two Velcro straps and a ratcheting strap with the opposite orientation to that of the R320. True to Shimano's form, the company declined to comment on the shoe. “Shimano is constantly working to improve its product," said Shimano spokesman Nick Legan. "Shimano athletes often test prototypes in competition as a part of the development process.”
Most of the Trek Factory Racing riders on using Bontrager's new XXX shoe. But at least one rider is on what looks to be a new version of the XXX LE shoe, a three-Velcro-strap model. As with Shimano, Bontrager declined to divulge any details.
Next-edition Bontrager XXX LE shoes?
"We race to win. We race to learn. New product comes out of that," said Bontrager marketing spokesman Sam Foos. "These shoes are not final, and we have no timeline to publish as of yet."
Trek's Frank Scheck is racing in some oddly modified Bontrager shoes, which Foos declined to explain, beyond saying that "it is a long story".
Finally, Sierra custom carbon shoes popped up on a couple of AG2R-La Mondiale riders. Frenchman Jean-Stephan Sierra began making rollerblade boots back in 1994, and later moved into cycling footwear. His custom rollerblade boots sell for €750, and the cycling shoes go for €510.
Click through the gallery above for a closer look at these special shoes.
Sylvain Chavanel's blank Specialized S-Works shoes