For as long as I can remember white has been the appropriate color while riding in the Pro peloton. White bar tape, white frame, and white jersey – white is the apropos color in road cycling.
As if it were as fashionable as white tie attire at a wedding, wearing a white shoe is the popular choice for cyclists who keep it on the road. It’s just another aspect for mountain bikers to rebel against along with their baggy shorts and hairy legs.
As germane as white shoes and matching socks may be, all formal correctness may change and the Euro snobs may be in for a shock. That’s because last week Lance Armstrong made his thundering reemergence to professional racing and with all eyes trained on his epic return to the Pro Tour, he had the unbecoming audacity to wear black shoes and black socks in the face of the best cyclists in the world.
It was ever apparent from the live streaming video online, Lance showed no fear as he protected Amgen Tour of California race leader Levi Leipheimer for 9 days whether rain or shine. As usual he rode near the front of the pack, and as usual Nike provided him with his shoes. Nike never stopped sponsoring Lance and his Livestrong Cancer Organization even while he was retired.
Now, it is true that 2008 did see an emergence of more UCI teams incorporating black shoes into their kit, but Lance’s image in California was more distinct because along with his black and yellow Livestrong gilet and black bicycle, his shoes were also different from the rest of Team Astana. Last week he just seemed to stick out more, divergent from his team and the rest of the racers who all continued to wear white.
Looking back to Lance’s career he has always been a proponent of a darker shade of shoe and the seven time Tour de France champion started rocking black shoes again in the Tour Down Under this past January. Only at the Interbike’s Cyclocross race last fall in Las Vegas did he wear a mix-colored shoe, a discipline fitting for black.
However, in the Pro Tour he is constantly surrounded by white kicks including those of fellow countrymen Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, and longtime lieutenant George Hincapie. Even Rock Racing and their bad boy civil disobedience is consoled by their white feet, probably because their team is more populated with Europeans this season.
But even with Armstrong’s comeback, most riders and racers will probably stick with white for a while. White shoes still remain the chic and hip choice for club riders everywhere as each cyclist pays homage to the European roots of cycling. However, when applied with a black sock, a dark shoe can make a statement that might stand out as much like Rock Racing’s anarchy. But for now the tradition remains, and white shoes cast a brilliant reflection on a sun-drenched day drawing the eye to the center of the fun, the spin of the pedals, the power and the grace of our sport.