Hour after hour, Bennett rides the home trainer as he looks to maintain a certain level of fitness, while in her studio Fielder adds the finishing brushstrokes to her latest piece of work.
For those unaware of Fielder’s occupation, you’ve probably seen her work before. The New Zealander paints racing shoes for some of the biggest names in cycling.
She’s currently inundated with orders, with Luis Leon Sanchez and Primoz Roglic the latest elite athletes to seek her services. Her previous clients include Esteban Chaves, Mathieu Van der Poel, Michael Matthews, Hannah Barnes, and, of course, Bennett.
In fact, her move into shoe art started with a pair made especially for Bennett ahead of the Tour de France in 2017. Before that, Fielder’s background was far removed from the world of art.
"It’s random because I actually did a bachelor of science, majoring in biological science. I’ve never studied art, other than as a subject in high school. My mum and dad are quite arty, so I guess it comes from them but I painted in college and just kept it up from there," Fielder tells Cyclingnews.
"It was George who actually helped with the idea, so he has a claim to fame on the business. It was for his birthday and I had no idea what to give him. He suggested painting his shoes and I did a quick version before painting a proper pair for him at the 2017 Tour de France.
"They just took off, and at that stage I’d already moved to Europe. I’d quit my job in agriculture back home and moved over and thought about starting an art business but at the start I thought I’d be painting people’s pets. Until that moment, I’d had a few commissions doing dog portraits but when I made those shoes for the Tour it just exploded."
Bennett’s Tour de France shoes in 2017 were a pair of Shimano's. They combined the colours of the New Zealand flag with Fielder’s artwork and stood out from the peloton’s uniformity.
After that, word spread far and wide. Each rider now comes to Fielder with specific requests around their footwear needs. Some, like Chaves, go for the loud and proud colour schemes, while Matthews opted for a pair that were so detailed and subtle that they required almost 50 hours of work. Like any form of artwork, it comes down to personal choice.
"Nowadays, the riders message me through Instagram and give me a general idea of what they want. Then I’ll do a photoshop mock-up. It goes back and forth before they send me their shoes to paint," Fielder says.
"Most of the pros want quite subtle designs but then Estaben’s shoes were probably the brightest I’ve ever done. They were to go with his Foundation, and he loves colours. I’ve done a few pairs for him but for riders generally, this is probably one of the last things that they can personalize because everything else needs to be the same. Shimano have been great about it, because obviously, fans are looking at the shoes."
For Fielder, the reward comes when she spots her work in the peloton on race day.
"I get a huge kick giving the shoes back to the riders, and I love seeing them wear the artwork. I was fizzing when Esteban won his Giro stage last year in his shoes."
While most of the world remains on lockdown and the wheels of professional cycling gather dust, it’s worth remembering that there are still a million and one stories being played out, and just like Feidler’s shoes, they’re all unique. They’re all different.
Commission details, pricing and additional galleries are all available at caitlinfielderfineart.com.
Editor in Chief - Cyclingnews.
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