LAS VEGAS, NV (BRAIN) — American road racing phenom Taylor Phinney won a silver medal in the time trial Wednesday wearing some unusual Giro shoes that the company, by coincidence, is introducing to U.S. retailers here at Interbike.
The Giro Empire is a lace-up road shoe with a one-piece upper made of shiny Teijin microfiber fabric. It looks more like a soccer shoe than a cycling shoe, and that was the intention, Giro creative director Eric Horton said Wednesday.
A year ago, Phinney was shopping for a new shoe sponsor when he asked, essentially, "what can Giro do for me?"
Horton said Giro designers began talking to the young Coloradan about some shoe style ideas.
"He's a young rider, he comes from a totally different point of reference," Horton said. "He was a top soccer player before he got into bike racing and he wanted a shoe like some of the minimalist soccer cleats he had."
The Nike Mercurial Vapor soccer shoes were one inspiration that Phinney looked to. Besides the styling, Phinney wanted a shoe for time trials that would be sleek and aero under shoe covers, with no buckles to catch air.
"For four or five days, he was the most photographed cyclist in the world. And all the photos focused on his shoes ... " — Giro's Eric Horton
Horton said Giro's discussions with Phinney about a sleek, soccer-shoe inspired shoe tipped the sponsorship talks in Giro's favor. With Phinney on board, the company made him some special shoes.
"We had no intention of ever producing it," Horton said. "We thought it was a one-off for an athlete."
But the shoe got a lot more attention when Phinney won the prologue at the Giro d'Italia wearing them. The prologue win put him in the Giro's pink leader's jersey for several days. Normally, Phinney would have switched back to a buckled shoe for the road stages, but he broke the buckle on those shoes in a crash on the first stage.
So Phinney kept using his time trial shoes, and they appeared in many photos because Phinney had a taped-up ankle from a crash injury. "For four or five days, he was the most photographed cyclist in the world," Horton said. "And all the photos focused on his shoes because of his injury."
Phinney, who has mastered the art of social media self-promotion, tweeted pics of the shoes to his followers.
Phinney wore the lace-up shoes exclusively for the rest of the season, including on Wednesday when he missed a gold medal in the world championships by just five seconds.
Giro sent Phinney a special pair of black and pink shoes to celebrate his Giro success; an autographed pair is on display in the Giro booth at Interbike.
The company has decided to put the shoe into production. They will be available in January for $275 MSRP.