Belgian rider makes history in his final season

Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) says that he is “proud” to make history as he delivered the first professional victory for disc brake bikes in Argentina’s Vuelta a San Juan.

The Belgian classics star and former world champion sprinted to victory in stage two riding a Specialized Venge ViAS Disc, beating Elia Viviani (Italy), who took the overall lead.

He wrote on Instagram, “First victory of the year! Proud to be the first pro to win a race on my #venge with #discbrakes. I have been a big fan of this massive improvement from the start. @iamspecialized_road it doesn’t only add safety it also gives you better control of the bike braking into corners. #dirtyfaceswinraces”

A day earlier, he led out team-mate Fernando Gaviria for the win, with the two swapping roles on Wednesday.

Boonen says that he will race on a disc brake bike in every race in 2017, until he retires following Paris-Roubaix on April 9. He is using both the Specialized Venge and Roubaix frames this season.

The UCI gave the green light for teams to use disc brakes in 2017, instead of traditional calipers, in all races following a rocky start.

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After an initial trial period late in 2015, the UCI allowed teams to start using them at the beginning of 2016. That abruptly stopped after Francisco Ventoso alleged that he had been injured by a disc rotor in a crash in Paris-Roubaix.

The Spaniard said that the cut to his left leg was caused by another cyclist’s disc brake. Teams Direct Energie and Lampre-Merida were using disc-equipped bikes in the race, but said that none of their riders crashed in the same cobble sector as Ventoso.


Watch: Eight things you need to know about disc brakes


Under pressure, and only four mouths into the season, the UCI banned disc brake use in professional races.

Manufactures like Shimano, Campagnolo and SRAM had to re-design its rotors. Satisfied, the UCI allowed them back in, but with dull edges, instead of square ones, and rounded, not jagged.

So far, only Shimano and SRAM have rolled out disc brakes in races, with Italian manufacturer Campagnolo yet to do so.

Boonen’s win may help diffuse the use of the new brakes in the professional ranks and among amateurs.

>>> UCI asks pro riders for feedback as it prepares to start second disc brake trial

Disc brakes still have their critics, however. Some say wheel changes take too long, they are too noisy and they are dangerous due to their design and the different braking speeds produced compared to those using callipers in the peloton.

Ventoso likened them to spinning knives after his crash, and Sam Bewley (Orica-Scott) last year posted a photo showing burns from a hot disc that he collided with.

Boonen had nothing but praise for them when his season kicked off in Argentina. Of note, he will reportedly work in public relations for Specialized after he retires from racing.