Alex Howes and Toms Skujins of the Cannondale-Drapac team started Strade Bianche on disc-brake bikes, as the debate in the peloton and the sport continues about the use and safety of the new braking technology.
On Friday world champion Peter Sagan confirmed he would not use disc brakes due to doubts about a mixed peloton of riders on different kinds of brakes.
“I agree with using disc brakes if everyone in the peloton uses them - not only a few people," Sagan said. Asked if it was for safety reasons, he said: "No, not for safety. Safety left cycling a while ago..."
Sagan later explained to Cyclingnews that the risk of losing time - and perhaps a race - due to a slow wheel or bike change was his biggest concern.
In recent weeks Tom Boonen and Marcel Kittel have both used disc brakes in races and have both won races. However, Kittel opted to stop using disc brakes at the Abu Dhabi Tour after he crashed with Owain Doull of Team Sky and the British rider suggested Kittel’s disc rotor cut his shoe.
Cannondale-Drapac rider used disc brakes at the Ruta del Sol but the crash at the Abu Dhabi Tour sparked debate in the peloton about the safety of disc brakes and the procedure followed to allow the trials during the 2017 season.
The CPA riders association is firmly against the current disc brake trial despite taking part in the process that lead to their approval. The rider have called for covers to protect against injuries during crashes and many believe it is wrong to have a mixed peloton of some riders on disc brakes and others on traditional rim brakes. The UCI have so far refused to change their stance on the disc brake trial.
Howes opted to use disc brakes at Strade Bianche, convinced of the advantages they could give on the dirt roads. Rain also began to fall as the race rolled out of Siena. He said it was a “group decision” at Cannondale-Drapac.
“It might pay off it rains here,” he said at the start. “There’d be more predictable braking, better clearance and such.”
Asked if there was pressure from fellow riders not to use disc brakes, Howes said: “There’s pressure in both directions, so...”
When asked what the other direction was, he said: “We’re sponsored by a team that makes disc brakes. It’s kind of necessary to push things forward in the sport but we’re trying to do it in a conscientious way.”
Quick-Step Floors confirmed that they would not use disc brakes at Strade Bianche. It seems that the Belgian team only has the Venge ViAS aero bike equipped with disc brakes, which is not best suited to the dirt roads of Tuscany.
Under the UCI rules for the trial, the team are not obliged to inform race organisers if they will use disc brakes. However, Vittoria, who provide the neutral service at most Italian races, will carry three sets of disc brake wheels in every vehicle it has in the race convoy.
Vegni calls on the UCI to act
Race organiser RCS Sport has seen the debate about disc brakes overshadow a stage at the Abu Dhabi Tour and Mauro Vegni, the head of cycling at RCS Sport, called on the UCI to answer the doubts and questions that continue to surround the use of disc brakes.
“At the moment there’s a risk of having a neutral service that is actually of little service. It’s pretty clear for everyone that there are still some technical problems to resolve. It’s complicated for us as race organisers and for the riders and teams.”
“There’s a risk that it becomes a much wider question about safety. Sadly this has somewhat been put aside because of economic reasons. I know that some brands want to promote disc brake bikes but I think that the governing body has to be very careful how it deals with things. First they have to resolve all the problems linked to disc brakes and then give the go ahead for everyone, all at once. Letting everyone do what they want isn’t the way to do it.”
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.