Kittel to use disc brakes at the Dubai Tour
They 'offer a very strong improvement' says German sprinter
Marcel Kittel has confirmed he will use disc brakes at the Dubai Tour that begins on Tuesday, convinced that disc brakes offer a "very strong improvement" compared to traditional rim brakes.
Tom Boonen used a Specialized disc brake bike last week in the Vuelta a San Juan, and Kittel will also race on a S-Works Venge ViAS disc bike fitted with Dura Ace disc brakes.
"Using disc brakes now is a good moment because you can see how it is in a race," Kittel said when asked by Cyclingnews about discs.
"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."
Boonen was the only rider using disc brakes in Argentina and Kittel is expected to be the only rider on them in Dubai.
Kittel has been outspoken in defence of rider safety and is concerned about riders using different kinds of brakes in extreme race conditions. He called on the UCI to make a clear decision for everyone's safety.
"I think the most important point is that we need to find the solution to what they do for the rest of the year," he said carefully choosing his words.
"From my point of view, it's not very smart and logical to let half of the bunch ride on disc brakes and the other half on rim brakes. That might be OK when you have dry conditions like in Dubai without rain, but once you are in a downhill, there's an incredible difference between rim brakes and discs when it's wet."
"I guess the UCI has to take a decision here. Once that is taken you can also talk about improving [safety of] the discs with a cage or something."
Kittel was confident that measures had been taken to prevent disc rotors from becoming "like giant knives", as Movistar rider Fran Ventoso alleged last year.
The UCI required rounded edges on the disc brake rotors, a move Kittel supports. "I saw it, I touched it," he said of the rotors. "I have trust in it, but yeah, at all the discussions are sure not over yet. I just hope that nothing negative has to happen again."
No pressure but time to test the lead-out train
Kittle was relaxed but focused at the pre-race press conference, keen to deploy his sprinting form after a winter of training.
"I'm happy to be back and to start my season here. I don't think there's a better race to start a season than Dubai, especially for a sprinter," he said.
"Why? Because it's flat. It's the only race where you [as a sprinter] can also go for GC if you are in good shape. That's what I'll find out in the next five days."
Kittel is also keen to test out his Quick-Step Floors lead-out train. He will have the support of Fabio Sabatini, Matteo Trentin, Julien Vermote, Davide Martinelli, Maximilian Schachmann, Bob Jungels and Julian Alaphilippe.
"It's an opportunity to see how the team is doing," he said. "If we make mistakes in the finale, it's okay for it to happen here. But it can't happen at WorldTour races later. I've gotten to know all the people on the team now, and that has created a strong bond, I think that is very important for the lead out."
"I had a good winter. I could feel that ending the season with good racing form and then starting training again from that made a big difference. I hope this is an advantage for 2017. Generally, I think the pressure is the same, especially the pressure I give myself. Dubai was a really important goal for me last year. I still have same ambitions but having a good 2016 makes me relaxed, too, and allows me to enjoy things a little bit more."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.