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Roubaix favorites steer clear of disc brakes

Most of the favorites for Paris-Roubaix are opting to use caliper brakes instead of discs for faster wheel changes if they flat.

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GENT, Belgium (VN) — Cycling’s top classics team Quick-Step Floors is bucking the disc brake trend this Sunday for the Paris-Roubaix classic over France’s cobbled farm roads.

The team leaders including Niki Terpstra, winner of the Tour of Flanders, will opt for normal caliper brakes when it comes to the “Hell of the North.”

World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will also use the traditional brakes for Paris-Roubaix. The defending champion Belgian Greg Van Avermaet will ride rim brakes on his BMC bike as well.

Greg Van Avermaet, winner of Paris-Roubaix 2017, will not ride disc brakes Sunday. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

“If you get a flat tire, it’s faster to change your wheels,” Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors), winner of Dwars door Vlaanderen, explained.

“And it’s difficult to change it if you have disc brakes, it goes a bit slower. A normal wheel is faster and everyone is used to it to change it. It’s better and faster.”

Quick-Step will send an army of team staff out in the French farms to stand alongside the famous cobbled sectors from Compiègne to Roubaix. They will hop from sector to sector to see the race pass, but also to render aid if one of the team’s riders has a mechanical.

“Sometimes the team car is very back,” Lampaert added. “But people are standing next to the road with wheels from VIP cars or from other team leaders.”

While these top pros are bucking an industry trend toward disc brakes on all road bicycles, some favorites aren’t afraid to ride discs in Sunday’s monument classic.

Sep Vanmarcke and his EF Education First-Drapac team will race on disc-equipped bikes. Also all of the Trek-Segafredo team is expected to ride discs.

The top favorites for Sunday, Terpstra and Sagan, however, are steering clear of discs.

The industry has been pushing discs into the peloton over the last years. Their advantage is clear on wet days when riders are descending mountain passes

“But in Paris-Roubaix? In a race like this, you shouldn’t be braking anyway,” said one of Quick-Step’s four leaders Zdenek Stybar.

Stybar did not argue the pros or cons of the new braking system, but rather that the speed and convenience of wheel changes is so important in France’s biggest one-day race.

The 257-kilometer monument covers 29 sectors or 54.5 kilometers of the nastiest farm roads in northern France.

“You don’t want to risk having a problem,” Stybar said.

“It’s best to stay with the brakes and wheels that we are used to using and racing on. There are other races where disc brakes are better to use.”

Quick-Step helper Iljo Keisse explained that he is making the switch to disc gradually, already using them in Scheldeprijs Wednesday. Too much rides on Paris-Roubaix, though.

Specialized, which supplies bikes for Quick-Step and Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team, explained another reason is that the teams had their tubular wheels — without discs — built up well in advance for this year’s Paris-Roubaix.

“The logistics are unique at Roubaix,” said Scott Jackson, Specialized’s road sports marketing manager. “Where random dudes will be giving out wheels at times on the sectors. That’s why the decision was made. That’s good for us. If the team is supporting disc brakes where it makes sense, which they are, if they need to race Roubaix to feel comfortable with logistics, that’s fine.”

Team Sky, with Gianni Moscon, Ian Stannard, and Geraint Thomas, is among those teams not embracing discs. Sky uses normal caliper brakes all season on its Pinarello bikes.

Critics argue that discs are not necessary and add another dangerous element in the professional peloton, pointing to the braking differences and the possibility of being cut with a spinning disc.

In the 2016 Paris-Roubaix, an incident occurred with Francisco Ventoso. Another happened in the 2017 Abu Dhabi Tour with Owain Doull and Marcel Kittel. In both cases, some argued the disc did not do the damage.