Despite questions over their safety in the peloton, the custom painted bike on which Tom Boonen starts Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will be equipped with disc brakes. The Belgian superstar does not believe they are any more dangerous than any other component of the bike.
Team Sky’s Owain Doull believes the cut on his left foot and the deep slice through the fabric of his shoe was sustained after coming into contact with the brake rotor on Marcel Kittel’s bike. However, Boonen told Cycling Weekly he does not believe his team mate’s bike was to blame.
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“It’s impossible to cut your left shoe on a disc,” the Quick-Step Floors rider said at a pre-race press conference in Kortrijk on Friday. “I don’t get what the fuss is about, he probably just hit the fence, so let’s discuss the fences, they are more dangerous.”
Last month Boonen became the first rider to win a professional road race using disc brakes and he is clearly unconcerned by their use.
“The rest of the bike is not soft,” he continued. “It’s not made of papier maché. I had a chainring in my butt one time.
“Discs are now being discussed because it is new, and like everything in cycling it’s hard to get people to change their minds, and these guys who are now shouting the loudest have never tried it before, they just say it’s bad and dangerous.
“I don’t see any danger in it. It is the next step and I’m sure in five years we will look back and say we were stupid.”
Boonen cut a relaxed figure as he answered journalists’ questions, seemingly unperturbed that after 14 attempts he has never won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
“It won’t change a lot if win it, but I will try as hard as I can,” he smiled. “It is one of those races, normally I am here approaching my best level but never on it, and you are racing against guys who make an objective of this weekend.
“Guys that have been good in Omloop mostly start to get worse after Tirreno [Adriatico] or Paris-Nice, as the classics approach they don’t have that extra two per cent.
“It’s a long time from Omloop to Paris-Roubaix.”
Boonen will bow out of professional cycling after this year’s Paris-Roubaix on April 9. He has won the Queen of the Classics four times, sharing that record with compatriot Roger de Vlaeminck. However, no rider since Johan Museeuw in 2000 has won both races, though that statistic will not stop him in Ghent today.
“I’m not going to brake to come second,” he smiled. “But maybe I can be the first guy to do it and that would be another thing unique in cycling.”
On the seat tube of the disc-equipped Specialized Venge Boonen will ride today is written, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die”.
Should he follow victory today with a fifth success on the Roubaix velodrome in six weeks legendary status will be assured for Boonen. If it’s not already.