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Picture if you will the 1986 edition of the Tour de Suisse. The young rider that would go on to win the race – and do so again the following year – was Andy Hampsten. As important as the win was for the young American rider, it was what he pedalled on that held wider significance for the sport. The previous year, in 1985, a French ski apparel company by the name of LOOK had released a new product on to the cycling market. It was one that would help change cycling forever. By using technology developed for their ski bindings they created a new kind of cycling pedal, one that was far easier to operate than the existing clip and strap counterparts. Crucially for Hampsten, this new 'pédales automatiques' would, within a year of it appearing, ultimately save him crashing out of the Tour de Suisse.
I raced with La Vie Claire in '86, on Look pedals and shoes. This was after racing in clips and I loved the new style. Better power with LOOK pedals and my feet had (and still do have) bone spurs from toe clips.
They were faster than clips and straps. Saved my ass in one race, too. I was leading the Tour de Suisse in '86 and followed an attack over a hill crest. The small group was just ahead of me but a couple of tight corners out of sight. No big deal but what racers have to keep in mind is that the Tour de Suisse is the most dangerous race on the calendar. Very few marshalls and no organized warnings about hazards.
I came into a blind right-hand fast and saw that it tightened sharply – too late to get through it gracefully. One of the riders ahead of me had gone over the left-side guard rail. I leaned as hard as I could but was running out of road. So I flicked my right foot out and did a three-point skid turn until the road straightened. Then I chased back on. Behind me I heard a crash; I felt bad because the only rider near me when I hit that corner was Sean Kelly. He got up alright, and was far enough behind me that I didn't interfere with his line, but I only stayed on the road because I was able to release my foot quickly.
— Andy Hampsten
The Road Racing Footprint
1818 – German inventor Karl von Drais creates the Laufmaschine or ‘running machine’.
1862 – The first velocipede appears, incorporating treadles or foot levers
1868 – The first organized bicycle race takes place in Saint-Cloud park, Paris.
1872 – Bicycle racers swap boots for lightweight leather running shoes.
1889 – The high-wheeler (penny farthing) is superseded by the ‘safety bicycle’ with a chain drive turning the rear wheel via a crank and pedals.
1891 – The first clipless and magnetic pedals appear with shoe plates and/or slotted cleats, with fittings attached or built in to the sole.
1895 – Toe clips and straps become ubiquitous amongst cycle racers
1903 – The first Tour de France takes place
1970 – The Cinelli m71 pedals appear on the market.
1982/3 – Sidi, Diadora and Adidas introduce Velcro fastenings for cycling shoes
1985 – French ski equipment company Look introduce their pédales automatiques or pp65. The first commercially successful clipless pedal.
1986 - Andy Hampsten, racing for La Vie Claire, wins the Tour de Suisse using clipless pedals.
2011 – The first sketches for the Rapha Grand Tour Shoes appear in the Californian desert.
2012 – Rapha and Giro launch the Grand Tour Shoes.
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