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Kittel hangs up disc brake bike, for now

A day after one rider at the Abu Dhabi Tour claimed he was cut by a disc rotor, Marcel Kittel rolls to the start line with caliper brakes.

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — Marcel Kittel has put his disc brake trial on hold only three weeks into the 2017 season. The decision follows Thursday’s Abu Dhabi Tour stage 1 crash in which Sky’s Owain Doull said one of Kittel’s brake rotors sliced his foot.

The tall blond German on the Quick-Step Floors team rolled out a silver Specialized bike Friday fitted with standard caliper brakes. After just five race days that included three wins, the discs were gone.

Those discs, some of Kittel’s colleagues say, cut like knives and add an additional risk to an already risky sport.

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“I will not use the disc brake bike today out of respect for my colleagues,” Kittel said after his team drove to the start of stage 2 and parked.

“The most important thing here is that we as riders stick to together and have one voice. We should have discussions about it, opinions will be different, but I can understand if there might be mental problems at the moment and I don’t want to put oil in that fire.”

The incident ahead of the final kilometer in stage 1 fanned a fire that has been burning for the last few years.

Opinions vary sharply on the use of disc brakes in professional road cycling. And with each alleged incident, the divide and fire appears to grow.

Francisco Ventoso blamed a rival’s rotor for a deep muscle cut in his leg suffered while racing Paris-Roubaix last year. That halted disc brake use of the remainder of 2016.

It re-started in 2017 with Tom Boonen’s Tour of San Juan stage win, the first road victory on disc brakes, and came to a head with Doull’s crash. Some say the rotor slashed his foot and other blame the side barriers.

“Everyone has the right to say what he thinks,” continued Kittel. “I’m sure every one of you saw that video that was on Twitter and everywhere, it’s pretty clear to see that it would have been difficult to get a sliced shoe from my disc because the distance is too far. Anyway, it is not up to me to say.”

Kittel appears ready to ride the next three days in Abu Dhabi without his disc brake bike. It is unclear what he will do after that. “We’ll see how that situation develops,” he said.

Eyes will be on Boonen and whether he will use discs or calipers in Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Belgian classics champion said he would race with disc brakes until he retires after April’s Paris-Roubaix.

The professional peloton wants the UCI to stop and reexamine the use of discs in road cycling. In a union vote, 40 percent of riders voted to prohibit their use, 40 percent — including Kittel — voted to prohibit their use until better safety measures are rolled out, and only 16 percent want to continue their use as the rules are now.

“Ultimately [the cyclists] should be one of the leading roles when it comes to decisions like that because we ride the bikes [and] we suffer from the injuries, like you saw yesterday, when we crash. We should be part of the process,” Kittel continued.

“I still support the technology but I’m also really in support of those riders who are scared and I’m happy to talk to everyone to try to convince them, but also I’m asking for extra investigations and safety measures.”

Specialized, Shimano, and every manufacturer want to sell equipment to make profits. Some say that is the reason team riders are using discs and disc-ready frames.

“I don’t get paid to ride disc brakes, like some of my colleagues have said as a joke. I’m also not here to drive a marketing campaign for disc brakes,” Kittel explained.

“I still think they can be the next step for technology in our sport, I still have that opinion, but I think it’s also a smart move to see how it develops and keep working on it.”

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