What do you get for equalling an Eddy Merckx Tour de France record? Some champagne? Of course! A nice watch? Perhaps. A special place in the history of the sport? Yeah, all very nice but what one should really get is a pair of custom-painted Nike Air Forces.
That’s what Nike wanted, eight times over, for Mark Cavendish. And what Nike wants, a Nike athlete gets. Nike commissioned the Ireland-based Shoe Dr to create eight custom Air Force trainers to celebrate Cav’s record-equalling Tour de France stage win tally. Nike wanted something to commemorate Cav’s achievement and reflect the incredible comeback from the brink of hanging up his racing number to stage winning glory in the Tour in just eight short months.
The Shoe Dr, aka Shea Gribbon, specialises in customising both new and old footwear. Gribbon’s ability to turn beat-up kicks destined for the bin into eye-catching works of art is phenomenal. As a cyclist himself, Gribbon often braves all kinds of funky used cycling shoes, but new trainers commissioned by Nike was a first.
The Shoe Dr said Nike gave him a specific brief: “Celebrate the milestone but also the blood, sweat and tears put in by Mark to achieve this after so long. To celebrate with those who stood by and believed (and still believe).” So, no pressure there then.
The result could hardly have been any better, the brief perfectly portrayed in shoes almost too good to wear. Except Cav is said to wear them all the time. The blood sweat and tears is clear to see, there is, of course, the number, Cav’s current stage tally. Hints of yellow and blocks of green area nod to la Grande Boucle’s famous jerseys. Every member of the Cav family got a pair of the hand-painted shoes, with a few spares in case of accidents.
The Shoe Dr, Shea Gribbon said, “I’m really happy with the shoes and the overall design, Nike had an idea which I tweaked and added to.” Shea continued “It was a very quick turnaround, but I am over the moon with the project”. By “very quick turnaround” Shea actually means a painstaking two to three hours per pair – that’s almost a full day in total!
One slight dilemma now, though, what happens if Cav wins a 35th stage?