Disc brakes have already begun permeating the amateur cyclo-cross ranks but up until now, detractors of the technology have always been able to use the argument that top pros were still running on cantilevers. That landscape has now been forever altered.
Dutch champion Lars van der Haar (Rabo Development Team) claimed that his disc brakes helped him to his win in the first World Cup round of the season in Valkenburg. Several weeks later, none other than current world champion Sven Nys (Crelan-KDL) has now made the move to discs at the third Superprestige round in Hamme-Zogge – albeit carefully.
Nys started and finished today on his usual cantilever-equipped bike but switched to discs periodically through the race. Nys says the test went well but even so, it's unlikely at this point that he'll make the switch full-time – yet. He went on to finish as runner-up behind Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) who is also riding with a Colnago. Albert tested his disc brakes at the Koppenbergcross last week.
"The difference is massive. With disc brakes you are braking, instead of slowing down," Nys said, adding that there are some disadvantages, too – namely weight. While 'cross doesn't incorporate the massive climbs of road racing, the frequent accelerations and run-ups mean that riders arguably feel any extra mass even more.
"The difference [in weight] is about two bottles of water, and it's not all in the brakes," Nys said. "It's an adapted frame which is strengthened. It's too much. Too much to run up a climb with that bike on your back."
While the race in Hamme-Zogge wasn't decisive in terms of braking power despite the muddy conditions, next week's race in Asper-Gavere is different as it features a lot of elevation changes.
"In Gavere it will be crucial. Normally there's not a lot of running," Nys said.
The test in Hamme-Zogge also holds further implications for the coming months as Nys will be moving over to a Trek for next season. Trek is putting the final touches on a new carbon bike based on its current aluminum Crockett model and it remains to be seen whether there will even be a rim brake option.