Teams are pressuring riders to use disc brakes while their colleagues are pushing them to prohibit their use, says Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac). The American was only two of 168 cyclists who began the Strade Bianche race on Saturday on a disc-equipped bike.
Howes and team-mate Toms Skujins rolled away from the historic centre with Shimano rotors mounted to their wheels and pads to their Cannondale bikes. The race follows an incident in the Abu Dhabi Tour where Sky’s Owain Doull blamed a cut to his foot on the disc brake Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) used.
“There’s pressure in both directions,” Howes said.
“Pressure to use them? We’re sponsored by a team that makes disc brakes. It’s kind of necessary to push things forward in the sport but we’re trying to do it in a conscious way.”
As of the start of this season, any team or rider may use disc brakes as they wish. Mostly, riders are using standard calliper brakes.
Howes agreed that he felt the weight of the peloton on him after the recent Doull/Kittel incident. In stage two, the following day, Kittel did not say that the rotor caused the crash but said that he decided to stop using them out of respect for his colleagues.
Kittel explained, “The most important thing is that we as riders stick to together and have one voice.”
“It was kind of a group decision,” Howe’s said of his reason to ride using a disc-brake bike instead of one with normal calliper and rim brakes.
Kittel is not racing in Strade Bianche, but his Belgian WorldTour team is.
Already, Tom Boonen used them the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last week. On Saturday, though, the team went with calliper brakes despite facing wet gravel roads.
Watch: What do the pros really think of disc brakes?
“It was one of the options, but it’s also a disadvantage if no one else of the team uses them because of a flat tyre then it’s much more difficult to change,” Zdenek Stybar of team Quick-Step Floors said. “I decided to race normal brakes as always.”
For the organiser, neutral wheel service is an issue. RCS Sport Cycling Director Mauro Vegni told Cycling Weekly, as Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) explained earlier on Friday, that either everyone needs to use them or no one. Safety, however, is his primary concern.
“The concept is the same for the organisers. I always think first about safety, so when we talk about discs, I think about safety. Then there’s the neutral support issue, that causes problem for us,” Vegni said.
“Fundamentally there’s no rule and I don’t know what to do. We need to see all the riders on them or no-one. We need a rule for it. And if there are disc brakes, we need the best way to ensure they are safe.
“I don’t mind if they use them or not, it’s more the big companies that want them and that are trying make business. That’s OK, I can’t stop technology or innovation, but we need to at least control things for safety.”
Over the last week, the riders’ union, the CPA, said that it would consider legal action against the UCI governing body if an incident happened and a rider suffered from a rotor. The UCI stood firm with its rules on disc brake use.