Marcel Kittel has confirmed he will use disc brakes at the Dubai Tour, convinced that disc brakes offer a "very strong improvement" compared to traditional rim brakes. He does not seem concerned by the weight of the bike, which is close to 8kg, but no doubt enjoys the aerodynamics of the frame despite the disc reducing part of the gains.
Tom Boonen used a Specialized Venge ViAS disc brake bike last week in the Vuelta a San Juan and Peter Sagan went training on a similar bike before the Tour Down Under in Australia. Specialized seems keen for their big-name sponsored riders to use disc brake bikes, while rival brands have so far held off supplying their professional teams and riders with disc brake bikes.
Boonen described the disc brake bike to Cyclingnews as "the biggest improvement I've seen in my career on bikes," adding "it would be stupid not to use it."
Kittel described the switch to disc brakes from rim brakes as an improvement when he confirmed he would use the bike in this week's Dubai Tour, even if he reservations about a mixed peloton in more extreme weather conditions.
"What I can say from all the training sessions I did already in training camps now is that it's a very strong improvement. It improves a lot of your steering of your bike; you can handle it really well – so I think it's a good choice," he said.
We got a closer look at Kittel's bike as the Quick-Step Floors mechanics carried out the final touch to the team bikes the evening before the start of the Dubai Tour.
Kittel's custom Specialized S-Works Venge ViAS disc frame has the same colours as the bike he used in the 2016 Tour de France. The rainbow colours were inspired by the European-based CERN particle accelerator and some of the experiments performed there. It is in bright contrast to the silver base colour of the frame.
The frame has clearly been used in training in recent times with the odd scratch and some paint missing from one of the brake mounts and the thru-axle holes in the rear dropout. The seat post has also seen use, with a touch of white marker indicating Kittel's saddle height.
While our sister site Bikeradar recently got to test the new Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9170 electronic/hydraulic groupset, the new components have yet to be supplied to the professional teams and Kittel, like Boonen, will use the older model of Shimano's disc brakes and their much chunkier levers. The disc brakes and levers are not marked Dura-Ace as they were not considered worthy of the top-level groupset.
The other components are also of earlier design with Kittel's bike fitted with a widely seen and used Dura-Ace 9000 groupset. The drivetrain is made up of 175mm crank arms, 53-39 chain rings and a Dura-Ace 11-23 block for the flat roads of Dubai. The left crank arm is fitted with a 4iiii power meter sensor, with another white sensor between the crank arms.
The Shimano Dura-Ace rear derailleur tucks tight under the block, while the front derailleur is fitted with a chain catcher to prevent sudden changes to the small chainring.
The disc brakes are all black, with 160mm disc front and back. The discs have flattened edges as required by the UCI. However, the inner edges of the cooler fins still feel sharp to touch. The 50mm Roval CLX carbon rims are shod with all-black Specialized Turbo Gripton 26mm tyres.
Kittel's bike is finished with a Specialized Romin Evo saddle, a Vision Metron 5D integrated and curved forward carbon bar and stem. It is covered with black and orange Supacaz tape, with bright orange bar ends. The saddle is a solid looking S-Works Romin Evo.
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