After 15 years on traditional caliper brakes, Tom Boonen is breaking the mould in 2017 as he is set to race the final season of his career on disc brakes.
The Belgian has been testing out Specialized's new S-Works Venge ViAS Disc model over the winter, and was suitably impressed to take it to Argentina for his first race of the 2017 campaign, the Vuelta a San Juan.
"It's the biggest improvement I've seen in my career on bikes, so it would be stupid not to use it," the Belgian told Cyclingnews in Argentina after a final training ride ahead of Monday's first stage.
The Quick-Step Floors team remain coy about Boonen's exact set-up for Paris-Roubaix in April, the highly anticipated final race of his illustrious career, with testing to be done in the coming months, both on the Venge and the cobble-specific Roubaix bike. He will however, certainly be on the Venge and on discs for the rest of the Spring Classics.
"I had a Tarmac with discs at home last year and trained on it a lot, still with quick release, then I had the new Roubaix with the thru-axles, then at training camp in December I was for the first time on the Venge – the real race bike – and I decided to go for it," said Boonen.
"They work better, they're easier to control, they lock out less fast than normal brakes. Of course I can control normal brakes but with disc brakes you have so much more feeling. It's the biggest improvement I've seen in my career – I don't know what all the hassle is about."
Hassle arose less than four months into the UCI's trial period last April, when Fran Ventoso suffered a deep gash to his leg last Paris-Roubaix and blamed it on a disc rotor. The trial was swiftly halted, but the new braking system – which has been used in other disciplines for years – has been re-introduced for the 2017 season with manufacturers developing safer 'rounded' discs.
The Quick-Step Floors team are carrying out a limited trial themselves in the early part of the 2017 season, with just Boonen and Marcel Kittel racing with disc brakes for the time being. Kittel will make his debut at the Dubai Tour at the end of this month on the Venge.
The team is using Shimano’s R-785 series, with 160mm rotors on the front and rear, both paired with 12mm thru-axles. World champion Peter Sagan has opted for a 140mm rotor on the rear, but QuickStep are sticking with the standard set by the UCI for neutral support vehicles, which hand out spare wheels to riders in the even of punctures.
Cyclingnews will have a gallery of Boonen's disc-equipped Venge ViAS that he's using at the Vuelta a San Juan, along with the full specifications sheet, on Monday.