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Sunweb debut Shimano Dura Ace disc brake groupset at cobbled classics

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Some companies opt for Allen-key-only methods of attaching thru-axle wheels, but the old hand-operated lever is still pretty handy

Some companies opt for Allen-key-only methods of attaching thru-axle wheels, but the old hand-operated lever is still pretty handy
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Sunweb's Michael Matthews with his Giant Defy SL race bike with Shimano Dura-Ace discs

Sunweb's Michael Matthews with his Giant Defy SL race bike with Shimano Dura-Ace discs
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Pioneer power meters require magnets on both sides of the frame to get the company's signature 360-degree 'force vector' data, which shows where in the stroke - and in what direction - power is being applied

Pioneer power meters require magnets on both sides of the frame to get the company's signature 360-degree 'force vector' data, which shows where in the stroke - and in what direction - power is being applied
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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The rear Dura-Ace caliper tucks neatly onto the back of the chainstay

The rear Dura-Ace caliper tucks neatly onto the back of the chainstay
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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An alloy stem with a steep angle puts Matthews in his preferred position

An alloy stem with a steep angle puts Matthews in his preferred position
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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The new Dura-Ace hoods have textured grips, a first for Shimano, and a single button atop the hood

The new Dura-Ace hoods have textured grips, a first for Shimano, and a single button atop the hood
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Giant's NeosTrack shows real-time Di2 gear selection, ratios and battery level. No word on whether it can display Pioneer's 360-degree power data

Giant's NeosTrack shows real-time Di2 gear selection, ratios and battery level. No word on whether it can display Pioneer's 360-degree power data
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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The absence of a rim-brake caliper cleans up the front end of the bike, and opens the door for more varied(read: wider) tubular selection

The absence of a rim-brake caliper cleans up the front end of the bike, and opens the door for more varied(read: wider) tubular selection
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Vittoria Corsa tubulars on the new Shimano disc wheels

Vittoria Corsa tubulars on the new Shimano disc wheels
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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The slim Fouriers Di2 junction box holder is a nice touch, eliminating the big black rubber band that is usually wrapped around the stem

The slim Fouriers Di2 junction box holder is a nice touch, eliminating the big black rubber band that is usually wrapped around the stem
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Note the Di2 sprint shifter tucked just behind the lever on the inside of the bar

Note the Di2 sprint shifter tucked just behind the lever on the inside of the bar
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Shimano road discs aren't new — but Dura-Ace-branded rotors and calipers definitely are

Shimano road discs aren't new — but Dura-Ace-branded rotors and calipers definitely are
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Matthews appears to have special team geometry of the Defy, judging by the relatively short head tube on the endurance bike

Matthews appears to have special team geometry of the Defy, judging by the relatively short head tube on the endurance bike
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Matthews' Giant Defy SL sports a nearly complete Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 electronic/hydraulic group - only the cranks are older 9000 Dura-Ace with a Pioneer power meter

Matthews' Giant Defy SL sports a nearly complete Shimano Dura-Ace 9170 electronic/hydraulic group - only the cranks are older 9000 Dura-Ace with a Pioneer power meter
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Matthews' cockpit holds a yet-unreleased Giant NeosTrack GPS computer

Matthews' cockpit holds a yet-unreleased Giant NeosTrack GPS computer
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Giant's top-end bikes feature integrated seatmasts that cut to measure. Other, more affordable models features traditional seatposts and clamps. The seatmast system saves weight and, Giant claims, allows engineers to better tune the ride

Giant's top-end bikes feature integrated seatmasts that cut to measure. Other, more affordable models features traditional seatposts and clamps. The seatmast system saves weight and, Giant claims, allows engineers to better tune the ride
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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The 9000 Dura-Ace crank doesn't quite match the newer 9170's darker aesthetic, but compatability is not an issue

The 9000 Dura-Ace crank doesn't quite match the newer 9170's darker aesthetic, but compatability is not an issue
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Elite is a veteran sponsor of the world's top road teams

Elite is a veteran sponsor of the world's top road teams
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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The new Dura-Ace Di2 rear derailleur takes cues from Shimano's XTR, with body tucked further underneath the cassette than past Dura-Ace

The new Dura-Ace Di2 rear derailleur takes cues from Shimano's XTR, with body tucked further underneath the cassette than past Dura-Ace
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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The new Dura-Ace 9100 pedals are a continued evolution of an old standard

The new Dura-Ace 9100 pedals are a continued evolution of an old standard
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Giant's Defy bikes are its endurance model, and only come in disc

Giant's Defy bikes are its endurance model, and only come in disc
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Like most major bike brands, Giant now has its own house saddles. It's unusual to see house-brand saddles on pro bikes, however, save Specialized and Bontrager

Like most major bike brands, Giant now has its own house saddles. It's unusual to see house-brand saddles on pro bikes, however, save Specialized and Bontrager
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)
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Shimano 9000 cranks…. for now

Shimano 9000 cranks…. for now
(Image credit: Patrick Fletcher)

The Sunweb team will race on disc brakes over the course of the cobbled classics campaign, with Michael Matthews one of five riders who will give Shimano's latest Dura Ace 9100-series disc groupset its first ever race outing.

Shimano initially launched its hydraulic road disc brakes a few years ago with non-series parts, saying it did not yet have a Dura-Ace-level package ready, and only recently released this first-ever Dura-Ace complete group with mechanical and electronic options. Cyclingnews understands that last Friday four teams were each sent five sets of the new system, which features more traditionally shaped shifters and improved heat dissipation on the rotors.

Sunweb were one of those teams, and on Wednesday at Dwars door Vlaanderen will use disc brakes for the first time, with riders having been given bikes to try at home in recent weeks. Zico Waeytens and Soren Kragh Andersen are the only members of the Classics squad sticking to traditional rim brakes.

The riders will be using Giant's Defy Advanced SL frame, which is "built to optimize Giant's Road Disc technology". It features flat-mount disc brake integration along with 12mm front and rear thru-axles, delivering "superior braking power and consistency, which equals added control in all types of conditions".

The five riders on the new Dura-Ace disc groupset will be using 140mm rotors front and rear, with most going for electronic shifting. The Dura Ace 9100 groupset has a few variations, the 9170 being electronic and disc, and the 9120 being mechanical and disc.

"We chose this setup, with the disc brakes, for the upcoming cobblestone classics because we believe they will offer us a competitive advantage," said Tom Davids, Team Sunweb's R&D expert.

"We continuously work together with our innovation partners DSM and TU Delft. The outcomes of our innovative research are used to further develop and advance our equipment, along with Giant and Shimano."

Matthews in favour of disc brakes

The team gathered in Waregem on Tuesday, where Cyclingnews grabbed some photos of Michael Matthews' Dura Ace disc-equipped bike, which can be viewed in the gallery above.

"The braking is really amazing," Matthews told Cyclingnews, having tested discs in between Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo. "It really feels like a mountain bike and I love the braking on mountain bikes. It's not too much and it's not too little; it's really the perfect balance of braking."

Disc brakes have been the source of controversy in recent months after the UCI decided to re-introduce its trial period, which had been halted last April when Fran Ventoso suffered a gash to his leg. A similar incident at the Abu Dhabi Tour, supposedly involving Marcel Kittel's bike and Owain Doull's shoe, has seen many riders voice their opposition to the re-trial, at a time when the CPA, the riders' union, was already at loggerheads with the UCI over the topic.

"I think that was all a misunderstanding. It wasn't the disc brakes, as we found out in the end that made all those problems. I think they're fine to race on and perfectly safe," Matthews argued.

"I haven't actually raced with them yet, but from what I've felt in training and seen on TV with other people racing, I can't see anything wrong with them. It's the evolution of cycling, we need to move forward with something and, looking at this bike right now, it's the evolution of cycling. It looks beautiful and to ride it's also really nice.

"Everyone has their own opinion, obviously, and not everyone will agree on everything, but at the moment you have the choice whether you ride on them or not, so you make your own decision really."