Despite the UCI’s green light for disc brakes this season, WorldTour teams have been slow on the uptake. Opting for the familiarity of rim brakes, only a few Pro Continental teams tested the disc brake waters in early season races like the Tour of Qatar. Concerns over safety (disc brake rotors are sharp, almost as sharp as, say, chainrings?) and slower wheel changes have many riders hesitant to embrace the new technology.
But what if the weather turns foul for the cobbled classics? Disc brakes could be advantageous if Flanders and Roubaix get wet and muddy, allowing for much larger tires and improved clearance, and this might be enough to sway some reluctant riders. But it may be too late to switch. So will anyone be on discs this spring?
VeloNews reached out to a few industry and racing insiders to get a handle on disc adoption, or lack thereof.
Only one of the 13 WorldTour teams riding Shimano components is likely to sport disc brakes this April, according to a source at Shimano. Watch for Lampre – Merida riders to hop aboard a new disc-equipped Merida bike that could possibly be unveiled at Flanders. None of the other 12 Shimano teams are currently planning on riding disc brakes.
The non-disc list of teams includes Trek – Segafredo. Trek’s Matt Shriver noted that until the whole team is racing disc brakes and until neutral support is able to support the riders, the team will continue to race rim brakes. But Trek did note that it believes discs are the future and they will continue testing the new brakes later in the season.
Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Kristoffer Skjerping recently posted a photo of a disc-equipped Cannondale Synapse on his Instagram account with the caption, “New toy for the classics!” The team’s press officer would not confirm that the team will use discs this spring. It is worth noting that the squad’s Shimano drivetrains come straight from Cannondale itself, already hung on complete bikes, and are not obtained via sponsorship. So Shimano may not know whether the team is planning to use discs or not.
Only two WorldTour teams, Katusha and Ag2r La Mondiale, are on SRAM drivetrains this year and we don’t expect to see either using disc brakes this spring. Currently, SRAM’s eTap wireless electronic drivetrain — which both teams are racing — is not compatible with hydraulic disc brakes. Prototypes of this eTap-hydro system have been spotted, though, so there’s a slight chance we’ll see this pop up in races sometime throughout the year. Katusha hits another speed bump with disc brakes as its bike sponsor, Canyon, has yet to release a disc-equipped road bike. Prototype Ultimate disc bikes were spotted at Eurobike last year and have been approved by the UCI for racing, but we have yet to see these out on the road.
SRAM confirmed that Pro Continental team, Roompot – Oranje, will be racing with discs brakes for the classics but the Dutch team is on SRAM’s mechanical drivetrain, not eTap.
Campagnolo showed off its long-anticipated disc brakes at a launch in Gran Canaria in early March, and we’re expecting to see at least a few riders from Campy WorldTour teams — Astana, Movistar, and Lotto – Soudal — sporting the new brakes. Like Katusha, Movistar is on Canyon bikes, so if the team races discs this spring we’ll also get a glimpse of the new Canyon Ultimate disc bike.
At the launch, Campagnolo commented on its slow arrival to the disc brake market, saying the company doesn’t like to present a new product until it’s 100 percent sure it is the best it can be. The company insists the new brakes are ready for racing and that the brakes have been delivered to WorldTour teams, so we should see the disc brakes in upcoming races. But does that mean Flanders or Roubaix?
Caley Fretz contributed reporting to this story.