The Italian team first trialled the unreleased bike at the Three Days of De Panne, where the team said that the riders apparently enjoyed the improved braking that the Shimano RS785 hydraulic disc brakes had to offer.
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None of the other teams we spoke to were willing to confirm if they would be using disc brakes in the race, although we know that there are new disc brakes on the way from both Canyon and Giant, so look out to see if any Katusha, Movistar, or Giant-Alpecin are using discs on Sunday.
However one bike that we probably won’t see in the Tour of Flanders is the new Specialized S-Works Venge ViAS Disc. We’ve seen spy shots posted on Twitter by Etixx-Quick Step rider Fernando Gaviria of the unreleased bike, but there was no sign of it when the team mechanic were preparing the team’s bikes on the eve of the race.
Watch: your essential guide to the Tour of Flanders
This is the first full season that disc brakes have been allowed in all UCI races, but teams have so far been reluctant to use the new technology. Dutch pro continental outfit Roompot-Oranje Peloton stated at the start of the season that they would be using disc brakes in all races this year, but many of their riders have now switched back to rim brakes due to “technical issues”.
Up close with the Merida Scultura Disc
This was the first time we’ve seen the Merida Scultura Disc out in the wild, and although Merida is not yet willing to give any details about the design of the frame itself, there are a number of things that are noticeable to the naked eye.
First off, the fork has been completely redesigned. This was necessary in order for the carbon to be able to cope with the asymmetric torque that disc brakes create, but the fork arms also look to be considerably more bowed than those on the rim brake Scultura that was released last year. We assume this is to improve front end comfort and to allow for greater tyre clearance (Lampre-Merida’s bike were equipped with wide 28mm Continental Pro Ltd tubular tyres ahead of the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders).
Such a major redesign doesn’t seem to have been needed at the rear. Merida had already done away with the brake bridges on last year’s Scultura by positioning the rear brake callipers underneath the bottom bracket, and looks to have mounted the rear disc brake caliper on the new bike on a metal brace that is placed around the chainstays, rather than screwing the caliper into the frame itself.
The other talking point is that the new Merida Scultura Disc will use R.A.T. (Rapid Axle Technology) thru axles, a technology which has previously only been used by Focus. Unlike normal thru axles, which have to be screwed into the fork, this design means that the skewers are pre-tensioned, with only a quarter turn needed to secure them in place. According to Focus, this means that wheel changes take roughly the same time as if the bike had a standard quick release system.
Lampre Merida’s bikes were also equipped with an unreleased disc brake version of Fulcrum’s Speed 40T wheels and the new Rotor 2INpower power meter. The bikes were also fitted with wider tyres, steel Elite bottle cages, and double-wrapped Prologo bar tape to help riders cope with the demands of racing over cobbles.