WAREGEM, Belgium (VN) — Trek-Segafredo is putting the finishing touches on its plan to equip its entire seven-man Paris-Roubaix squad with disc-brake bikes.
Two team riders raced Wednesday’s Dwars door Vlaanderen with disc brakes in a final dress rehearsal before racing the “Hell of the North” with a full disc fleet.
“The plan is they will all race on discs at Roubaix,” said Trek-Segafredo sport director Dirk Demol. “We’ve been working on it for awhile.”
Disc brakes have been popping up in Roubaix over the past few years, but this could be the first time one of the top teams featuring pre-race contenders such as Jasper Stuyven and former winner John Degenkolb will use the braking system across its entire roster.
So far, the top favorites have been hesitant about using disc brakes during such an important race as Roubaix for a variety of reasons. The biggest concern is wheel-change speed and capability with neutral service replacement wheels. Trek officials say those concerns have been addressed, and it’s full speed ahead for Roubaix.
“We’ve done tests in the recons, and it’s good to use them in the race like today,” Demol said. “It’s really the future of the sport. I think very soon more teams will be using them.”
The disc brake debate has been yo-yo-ing across the sport the past few seasons. Manufacturers love them and there’s no denying the faster braking power of disc brakes.
Early attempts to introduce disc brakes into the peloton have produced some polemics. In 2016, Spanish rider Fran Ventoso said a rotor blade sliced him during a crash in the 2016 Paris-Roubaix. In 2017, Owain Doull (Sky) made a similar assertion after his shoe was cut during a spill at the Abu Dhabi Tour. Some of questioned whether or not disc brake rotors caused those crashes.
Those incidents and other issues were enough for the UCI to extend its trial period to continue through 2018. A standard rotor size of 160mm has been adopted as well as safety adjustments like smoothed edges. Another concern is braking distance disparity between the faster-stopping disc brakes and the traditional caliper brakes.
Despite these hiccups, the industry fully backs the adaptation of disc brakes in road racing despite some hesitation among riders.
The benefits of using disc brakes, with wider tire clearance and better braking in wet conditions, is slowly winning over disciples. Tom Boonen won the first major race in 2017 with a fully equipped disc brake bike.
For Demol, the Roubaix plan isn’t an experiment, but the arrival of the future.
“You have to brake a lot in a race like Roubaix, so it’s a perfect race for these types of brakes,” Demol said. “The riders really like it. They are enthusiastic about it.”