Movistar's Fran Ventoso writes an open letter regarding the leg injury he suffered at Paris-Roubaix, which he claims was caused by disc brakes

Movistar rider Fran Ventoso has written an open letter on the dangers of disc brakes in the professional peloton, claiming an injury he suffered at Paris-Roubaix was caused by one of the 16 disc bikes in the race.

The 33-year-old suffered injuries to his lower left leg which required surgery on Monday, although Lampre-Merida team manager Brent Copeland – whose team were riding disc brakes – wasn’t convinced that landing on a disc brake caused the injury.

Ventoso released his open letter on Wednesday, and rather than summarising it we thought it best to publish it in full below.

In the letter, Ventoso claimed that Etixx-Quick Step rider Nikolas Maes was also injured by a disc brake. We have reached out to Etixx to clarify this.


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Fran Ventoso: On disc brakes

I’ve spent thirteen years in the pro cycling peloton and another thirteen moving up the ladder in youth categories. That makes it 26 years on my bike, training every day, enjoying what I like most, my passion. Since I was six, I’ve enjoyed racing, and I continue to do so. I’m so happy to have turned my vocation into a dream job.

Just like in any other sport, cycling has evolved in many technical aspects. However, it has not done so in others in a way we’d all have liked.

Through all these years, I’ve witnessed many improvements on different parts of the bike and cycling apparel. We started off with steel, then aluminum, and later on, carbon. That last one came here to stay, since it was as rigid as we needed while also offering lightness.

We’ve also stopped using toeclips for clipless pedals, much more comfortable, effective and secure. Days are long gone when we used hairnet helmets: modern ones are now lighter, beautiful to the eye and offer absolute security guarantees when you use them.

I’ve also seen very important improvements on gearing. My first bike had one chainring and three sprockets; nowadays, we use two chainrings, even three, and 11 sprockets… and I’m certain it won’t end there.

Technology evolution has been a sort of trial and error: getting to this point hasn’t been easy. I remember how easily chains were broken when we first used ten sprockets: links that broke, because of materials still not as resistant as it was required… it still happens today.

We could also talk about the revolution that has brought the electronic shifting. When it was first shown and used, we all were surprised and made early judgments: it’s not necessary, it might not work well, carrying batteries seems wrong, having to connect your bike to AC is bonkers… And now, we can’t imagine our bikes without it.

My point is: two years ago, we started seeing disc brakes put on cyclocross bikes, and the rumour was that there could be a chance that they be tested in road cycling events.

Beforehand, I want to make this clear: I’m so in favor as anyone else that cyclocross professionals or participants in sportives enjoy the advantages of disc brakes during their rides.

But then, there’s pro road cycling events. Was there really anyone who thought things like Sunday’s wouldn’t happen? Really nobody thought they were dangerous? Nobody realized they can cut, they can become giant knives?

At Paris-Roubaix, only two teams used them. With eight riders each, that makes it sixteen, carrying a total 32 disc brakes into the peloton.

Let me take you to 130km into the race: into a cobbled section, a pile-up splits the field, with riders falling everywhere. I’ve got to break but I can’t avoid crashing against the rider in front of me, who was also trying not to hit the ones ahead.

I didn’t actually fall down: it was only my leg touching the back of his bike. I keep riding. But shortly afterwards, I have a glance at that leg: it doesn’t hurt, there’s not a lot of blood covering it, but I can clearly see part of the periosteum, the membrane or surface that covers my tibia.

I get off my bike, throw myself against the right-hand side of the road over the grass, cover my face with my hands in shock and disbelief, start to feel sick… I could only wait for my team car and the ambulance, while a lot of things come through my mind.

Just a stroke of bad luck? I don’t thing so: few kilometers later, one of the thoughts I had sitting in the gutter becomes real.

15km after my incident, Nikolas Maes, a rider from Etixx-Quick Step, comes into the very same ambulance I’m sitting in. There’s a deep wound in his knee, produced by another disc, one of those 32. One question comes inevitably and immediately to one’s mind: what will happen when 396 discs get into a race where 198 riders ferociously battle for position?

Disc brakes should have NEVER arrived into the peloton, not at least as we know them right now. I haven’t met any rider who has run out of braking power with traditional brakes; I haven’t known anyone who didn’t see his wheels skidding when you brake with all power you’ve got, no matter traditional or disc brakes. Then: why using them?

Conversely, there are lots of problems to change wheels after a puncture; added trouble for neutral service, which has to carry three or four different sets of wheels to help you out in case your team car is not around… and the most worrying thing, as I stated before, is that disc brakes in its actual concept are giant knives, ‘machetes’ when crashing against or crashed by them at a certain speed. And in some points, we reach 80, 90, 100 kilometres per hour.

I’ve been lucky: I didn’t get my leg chopped off, it’s just some muscle and skin. But can you imagine that disc cutting a jugular or a femoral artery? I would prefer not to.

All of this happens because the international riders’ association –the CPA–, national riders’ associations, international and national feds, teams and, above all of them, OURSELVES, PROFESSIONAL RIDERS, are not doing anything.

We always think that it’s not a problem if it doesn’t happen to ourselves. We always wait for horrible things to happen in order to take measures. Sooner or later, it could happen to anybody: it’s a matter of probability, we’ve all got the same.

Pro riders should take a look beyond our own belly. Others tell us what we should do, but we just can’t forget WE’VE GOT THE POWER TO CHOOSE, AND WE SHOULD MAKE A CHOICE.

Discs produce cuts. This time it was me; tomorrow, it can be more serious and happen to others.

  • John Lavis

    During hurricanes, pieces of straw can be found impregnated into wooden fences. A piece of straw does not have the rigidity to penetrate a wood fence by itself but when it is moving at extremely high speed it will quite easily…just like they can cut steel with water. If you move anything at a fast enough speed then it doesn’t matter if it has a sharp edge or not.

  • Clarence

    wonder if he would’ve had this opinion about disc brakes if he didn’t crash.

  • The Awakening

    Dillinger,

    RE: “Fran’s claims are also unproven, when it is proved then it can be considered a WARNING.”

    If you consider Fran Ventoso’s claims are unproven, why don’t you directly call Fran Ventoso a liar, rather than hide behind the word ‘unproven’ and your statement; “There is no evidence apart from what one person says”?

    If you consider Fran Ventoso’s claims are in your opinion ‘unproven’ and with your statement, “There is no evidence apart from what one person says”, within the context of your statements, clearly made by you, then in your opinion it is NOT a WARNING. Therefore because you do not consider it a WARNING, you play the ‘semantics’ game and state that his explanation is an unproven claim and so should be ignored as a WARNING.

  • The Awakening

    Dillinger,

    RE: “Fran’s claims are also unproven, when it is proved then it can be considered a WARNING.”

    Fran Ventoso issued an open letter, explaining what happened to him and the injuries sustained by another rider. If you want to play ‘semantics’ and state that his explanation is an unproven claim and so should be ignored as a WARNING, so be it for you.

    IMHO, when Fran Ventoso issued an open letter, explaining what happened to him and the injuries sustained by another rider, that was a WARNING…

  • Dillinger

    Fran’s claims are also unproven, when it is proved then it can be considered a WARNING. There is no evidence apart from what one person says. I’m not playing down what is clearly a nasty injury but to categorically say it was caused by a DB is a bold claim, perhaps a full UCI investigation is needed? Where the disc is situated in relation to the injury raises a lot of questions……not once did he state the bike he went in to was on discs, looks more in line with a rear cassette with a couple of bladed spoke marks rather than a slice from 80mm of protruding disc, but I’m sure we will find out in due course.

  • Jay

    Wouldn’t you think the OP should be in the best position to qualify the intention of his own comments? And if I want to be sarcastic about it I could have.

  • The Awakening

    Jay,
    There is NO misunderstanding on my part whatsoever, to your disingenuous and insincere posting. I’ll grant you have an ‘immoral cleverness’ in scribing it and defending it though.

  • Jay

    There’s nothing disingenuous or insincere about my regards to Fran Ventoso’s accident. All the pro riders (yes it’s their job) dedicate immense efforts at training and races to either hope to win races or fulfill their role in the team as best they can. You could imagine how gutted and disappointed he would be to pull out of the race and probably be off training for the next few weeks as well.

    The point to the UCI is to highlight that they have made an ill informed decision without going through proper and thorough investigations and I think it is unfair to those that support disc brakes in the pro races, no matter how small these numbers might be.

    Just like me using profanity at you because of your misunderstanding. It would be pretty absurd.

  • Stephen Vincent

    Try riding with these little bad boys on your bike in a peloton then!

  • The Awakening

    Jay,

    RE: “I guess you would be as interested and to prompt UCI to launch a formal investigation to determine the cause of your injuries…

    …Otherwise it would just be as unjust and absurd if UCI one day decides to ban say double wrapping of bar tape on PB…”

    The inference behind your posting is that the UCI restrictions just implemented on disc brake usage in competitive cycling is “…unjust and absurd…”

    IMHO, you have ‘crafted a posting’ that is disingenuous to the badly injured Fran Ventoso, while at the same time using words ‘Sorry’, ‘Take care and get well soon’, which come across as FAKE SINCERITY…

  • Jay

    Dear Fran,

    Sorry to hear about your injury and it must be frustratingly disappointing to be out of the race after the hard efforts of training and preparation. Hope a fast recovery for you and be able to get back to your training schedule asap.

    I guess you would be as interested and to prompt UCI to launch a formal investigation to determine the cause of your injuries so we could prevent a repeat of a similar accident. Also for the betterment of the sport, we should concentrate on finding a solution to the problem, just like all advancement in bike technology that goes into enabling you guys to ride better, faster and more comfortably on the tough races like Paris Roubaix etc.

    Otherwise it would just be as unjust and absurd if UCI one day decides to ban say double wrapping of bar tape on PB because it leads to less road feel and slows down a riders reaction time in the event of a crash.

    Take care and get well soon.

  • Testingplease

    are you sure?

  • hampshire31

    This doesn’t add up. For the medial side of his left leg to have been injured by the other rider’s disc (which would have been on the left hand side of the other rider’s bike), he would have to have straddled the other rider’s back wheel while still on his bike.

    Much more likely that it was his pedal, or something attached to his own bike that caused the injury. Unless he was off the bike at the time of the injury – though he says he didn’t fall down, and it was just his leg touching the bike, which implies he was still on his bike.

    If it was actually his right leg on the other hand – different story

  • ummm…

    i’d say he doesn’t. Cyclists are a very opinionated bunch. You should see me trolling around this site insinuating all sorts of skulduggery underway at SKY. Sometimes we hit a winner, most of the time we just bicker anonymously online.

  • ummm…

    sure. Although, fact that gears/chains have been in the peloton for such a long time with minimal inury should help up reaffirm the idea that the tech has reached a balance between performance and safety. The same can’t be said for disc brakes.

  • Roland Lawrence

    well if either are capable then surely investigation is required and rules amended.

  • Roland Lawrence

    indeed in the tour de france you barely see any arm signals being given to the other riders and no one has bike lights!

  • The Awakening

    ummm…

    RE: “…people here that don’t want to hear about the work place safety of their athletic “heroes” are ……. disappointing.”

    I saw your comments answering that ‘type’ above, with the ripost;

    “I love that this dude just got chewed up and you think he is whining. Enlightened”

    Maybe ‘this dude’ has a few warehouses stacked full of disc brakes he wants to sell on?

  • ummm…

    I dunno of retrograde is the word. I think the first implementation is flawed.

  • ummm…

    Do u watch cycling?

  • ummm…

    Did anybody get hurt?

  • ummm…

    Lol nice rhetorical flare. I’m not against a conversation and work arounds. However the people here that don’t want to har about the work place safety of their athletic “heroes” are ……. disappointing.

  • ummm…

    Because, people.

  • ummm…

    What?! The?!……….

  • ummm…

    Interesting point, but are gear teeth more or less affective at slicing people up than DB?

  • ummm…

    I think it may, or an aero casing, who knows. I think they can adjust.

  • ummm…

    How many people have been gored by bars since they have been out? Contrast that with the scarcity and sharpness of a DB, and having only been about for a limited time having already caused accident, and tell me that a conversation is warranted. I love that this dude just got chewed up and you think he is whining. Enlightened

  • Peter Green

    What a load of luddite bhollox.
    There plenty of other bits of a push bike to maim you. Let’s ban bars, cassettes, chains, brake levers, chain rings and cassettes whilat we’re here.
    And pneumatic tyres. They are the worst idea ever.
    Oh, and falling on tarmac as thats the cause of thousands of injuries each week.

  • Oh yes. That’s odd.

  • Agreed.

  • Bantz Bantz Bantz…

  • Lancsman

    I am not a big fan of disc brakes on road bikes, but each to there own… However I find it difficult to understand how he has damaged his left leg in this incident? With all discs being mounted to the left of the wheel surely he would have cut his right leg on the offending bike ? Or has straddled the rear wheel of the disc bike at which point his handlebars would have been level or forward of the saddle line? Or was the offending bike pointing in the wrong way?

  • Leodis75

    We have had a death by a moto rider and still we watched a rider hit again by one last weekend, hardly anything is said about that one.

  • Howmanyjackos

    A spinning disc is like sawblade…extremely dangerous. Some people were discussing making the edges more rounded , taking the 90 degree edge away…it wont make any difference.

  • Michael

    Speed limits and every rider should follow the highway code and keep a safe distance and keep both hands on the handlebars unless indicating.

    Speaking of indicating, clearly pro cyclists have a thing to learn about letting other road users know your intentions.

    It’s one thing Cavendish wearing rainbow stripes but I don’t see the peloton sporting cycling proficiency badges or boy scout “good bicycle skills” patches.

    It’s an outrage.

  • Michael

    Too late, I lost my keys

  • two20

    We had the same with bladed wheels. Once enough Pros lose blood then maybe the industry will stop pushing these brakes. I guess the take up on electronic gears never really lived up to their expectations. If they can persuade us we need discs it’s a whole new bike.

  • Keith Dany Donaldson

    Histrionics.

  • Paul Jakma

    Pro cyclists routinely ride *extremely* close to each other. I don’t know how they do it, but they’re pretty comfortable at being almost intimately close to other riders and bicycles… while cycling along at 40+ km/h.

  • Roland Lawrence

    it depends how far you want to go in the sport. Gear teeth are pretty lethal. Replace those with belt drive and internal gearing. More padding in clothing, maybe full face helmets, there is that new airbag system for cycles…

  • The Awakening

    Ian Carter,

    Maybe weight? Lightness of the bike!

  • Ian Carter

    Rotor guards exist, why aren’t they being used?

  • The Awakening

    RE: “I didn’t actually fall down: it was only my leg touching the back of his bike. I keep riding. But shortly afterwards, I have a glance at that leg: it doesn’t hurt, there’s not a lot of blood covering it, but I can clearly see part of the periosteum, the membrane or surface that covers my tibia.”

    What springs to my mind here, is that the disc brake, has similar characteristics to a tile cutter…

    Unlike a tile cutter, which has a guard on the top, to protect the user, disc brakes on bikes don’t have that safety feature!

    ‘Tombstone technology’ is a phrase that was mentioned in the Channel 4 documentary series called Black Box, where cases were mentioned, documenting improvements to airline safety that would only occur, as a result of many deaths…

    ‘Tombstone technology’, or ‘Tombstone safety’ MAY BE the determiner, of the long term suitability in the use of disc brakes on bicycles.

    Movistar’s Fran Ventoso’s written open letter, detailing the leg injury he suffered by a disc brake, is a WARNING…

    IMHO, if that WARNING is not heeded, there will be CONSEQUENCES…

    I shudder to speculate what those consequences will eventually be, but it has all the makings of ‘Tombstone technology’, or ‘Tombstone safety’…

  • Jason

    I just checked the discs on my Wilier GTS. They’re not sharp edged at all. I can run my finger along the edge with lots of pressure with no discomfort. Not knife like at all. My pedals have sharper edges.
    At high speed it could be a different story.

  • marc carter

    Wait until someone loses something, or god forbid even a death.

  • Mal Pearson

    Why do disks need sharp edges? Why can they not have a radiused outer edge? I would guess that might add a little to manufacturing costs, but with CNC tools not much, surely.

  • Phil Cresswell

    just think about the logistics of riding that close to another rider that your shin and clipped in foot is so close to the rear wheel and disc (80mm of rotor, assuming they are 160mm) that your shin can touch the spinning disc. Try it, where are his handlebars, where is his front wheel? If he’s that close behind, he’s too dangerous to be racing in a group without endangering himself and the rider in front.

  • blemcooper

    The thing with spokes and spinning wheels is that at speed, it’s unlikely that your fingers wouldn’t just deflect off them, and it’s a perpendicular entry for the type of injury you’re thinking of, and that doesn’t happen so much against wheels under power.

    But with the disc, as he said, he rode into the back of somebody’s wheel, parallel, and he didn’t even fall off. That happens all the time, and the wheel doesn’t even need to be rotating under power to cause a cut.

    He also noted that there were only 32 disc wheels s in this one race and two riders got badly cut by them in it, while there were several hundred non-disc wheels, all of them spoked. Where there any reported cuts caused by spokes?

    And no, chainrings are not relevant to this discussion–the bike doesn’t work without them, but they work fine without disc brakes.

  • llos25

    I totally agree with him disc brakes on bicycle are a retrograde step and a dangerous one.

  • Phil Cresswell

    Lets hope he never gets his fingers in the spokes of a spinning wheel. Imagine his outrage and calls for disc wheels!