After the controversy and the debate, Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) returned to using disc brakes on stage 1 of Paris-Nice. The German has been of the leading supporters of the braking technology, and one of the first riders to use them during their 2017 trial at WorldTour level.
Kittel briefly opted to return to the more traditional caliper brake-equipped Specialized Venge ViAS bike after claims that the disc rotors on his bike had sliced through one of Owain Doull's shoes in a crash on stage 1 at the Abu Dhabi Tour. He told the press then that he would put a hold on using discs "out of respect for my colleagues because I understand the safety issues."
On the start line of stage 1 of Paris-Nice, the discs were back.
"Oh yes, disc brakes. I think it's a good choice for this weather condition. I've said before that I still believe in the disc brakes and I'm convinced by it," Kittel told Cyclingnews.
While it still remains unclear as to how the incision in Doull's shoe was made – there were also claims that the Sky rider's attire could have been spliced open by a rusty guard rail during the crash – the debate around the technology has rumbled on. In the aftermath of the crash, a body representing the bicycle industry issued a statement rejecting claims that disc brakes are dangerous and should not, in their current form, be permitted for use in professional cycling.
The UCI and the (Cyclistes Professionels Associés) CPA are at loggerheads, with the latter's rider representative recently telling Cyclingnews, "The sad thing is someone might have to take a bullet for change to happen."
Kittel has raised the matter of safety, and told the press in Abu Dhabi that he would aim to convince them that the technology was safe. Currently, the UCI's trial means that riders can use both disc and the more traditional technology in the same peloton. The CPA have argued that there should be an all-disc trial, but not all WorldTour level manufactures currently supply a disc option.
For Kittel, at Paris-Nice, the aim is to hit the headlines for the right reasons and he has enjoyed a successful start to the season with four wins already. He looked to calm the situation before the start of stage 1, insisting that the UCI were looking into the matters surrounding safety.
"I don't want to comment on the debate at the moment as it's also driven by the journalists," he said. "Sorry, no personal offence with that, but it's just a story that's been blown up in my eyes. I want to keep the emotions out of it. I still believe in it and I also agreed that the UCI had to investigate what happened in Abu Dhabi. Then we'll see what happens but the trial is going on and I'll continue using disc brakes."
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