England may be playing Sweden in the World Cup quarter final this afternoon, but it’s a Brazilian football legend who has provided the inspiration for the cycling shoes that Mark Cavendish is wearing on the opening stage of the Tour de France today as he seeks to home in on Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 stage victories.
The Dimension Data sprinter, who has 30 stage wins in cycling’s biggest race, posted a picture of his shoes to Instagram yesterday, and explained how they are inspired by the Nike Mercurial boots that Ronaldo – not to be confused with the Real Madrid and Portugal player of the same name – wore during the 1998 World Cup in France.
True story. 20 years ago, during France 98, I saw @Ronaldo wearing the first #Mercurial. Immediately I wanted them. The R9’s. I was always a @Nike fan. They did things differently. They weren’t afraid to change what was normal. I can tell you, 20 years on, to be actually working alongside @Nike with that same philosophy is a dream. The same at 33 years old as if I was 13 again. Here’s the first #Superfly360 cycling shoe. Full #Flyknit construction. Comfortable and light. Built for pure speed in cycling like it is on the football pitch. For the colour? Well, it had to be a throwback to those R9’s that started my obsession with @Nike 20 years ago...
Some might wonder if Cavendish’s choice of footwear might be tempting fate somewhat, given Brazil lost in the final in Paris – the city where the Manxman took four successive victories on the Champs-Elysees between 2009 and 2012, but has drawn a blank ever since.
The 1998 World Cup Final had been billed as a showdown between Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane of host nation France, but billions watching around the world were astonished to learn shortly before kick-off that the Brazilian had been omitted from the team sheet.
He did take to the pitch but was a peripheral figure during the match and it later emerged that he had suffered a convulsion hours before the match.
Zidane netted twice and Emanuel Petit sealed a 3-0 French victory by latching onto a pass from then Arsenal team mate Patrick Vieira – inspiring the front page headline in the following day’s Daily Mirror, Arsenal Win The World Cup.
As sports footwear goes, the Nike Mercurial 1998 are as iconic as they come, and cycling isn’t the only sport that has seen the design rebooted – Neymar Junior’s boots during this year’s World Cup were an update to the ones worn by Ronaldo in 1998.
— Jules (@julesrcf) March 8, 2018
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.