Racer Francisco Ventoso of the Movistar team suffered a pretty nasty injury at this year's Paris-Roubaix when he was sliced and diced by a smokin' hot disc brake rotor, requiring surgery. After the incident, in an open letter, Ventoso asked, "Was there really anyone who thought things like Sunday's wouldn't happen? Really, nobody thought they were dangerous? Nobody realized they can cut, they can become giant knives?"
|(from Cycling Weekly)|
As a result, the UCI is temporarily suspending their trial period for disc brakes in pro racing. As it was, this was the first year in which teams could use the brakes with as many riders and in as many racers as they wished.
Who'd have predicted such a thing?
Well, actually, a number of riders in the past couple of years expressed that very concern, but the push by the component manufacturers to get disc brakes onto pro bikes was a major effort. Pro racers and team mechanics were raising questions about the brakes at least two years ago, some of whom predicted the very type of situation faced by Ventoso.
In a 2014 VeloNews article, Garmin-Sharp team mechanic Geoff Brown was quoted saying, "Safety is a genuine concern. Disc rotors are sharp, like spinning knives that have been heated in a 500-degree oven. They can easily slice flesh, and will burn on contact after a hard stop." To which he then added "at least you'll get cut and cauterized at the same time."
|(from Bike Radar)|
After Ventoso's letter hit social media, other professional racers chimed in about the risks. In a CyclingNews article about the incident and the subsequent ban on disc brakes, Ryder Hesjedal wrote in reference to the introduction of the technology, "I have felt this way since the very beginning! Should have never happened!"
Emotions are obviously running high - both in the wake of Ventoso's injuries, and the death of racer Antoine Demoitié, who was killed at Ghent-Wevelgem when he was struck by one of the motorcycles that ride in and out of the race peloton. Some are claiming that the disc brake ban is emotionally motivated.
For instance, Stefano Cattai, the technical liaison for team BMC was quoted in Cycling Weekly, "People are acting emotionally, and they need to cool down." He continued by saying that teams need to put more time and investment into disc brakes, as well as finding a way to make them safer for racers. "We have to have a solution, we need to invest more time in disc brakes," Cattai said. If we didn't continue to do these things, we wouldn't even be here with mechanical shifting, people would still be using levers on their down tubes."
|2011 Tour de France|
In any case, emotional or not, I'm actually shocked at how fast the reaction was by UCI to halt the disc brake trial - considering how many racers have been killed or seriously injured by other vehicles within the races in the past few years and yet nothing has been done about that situation. These vehicles include team cars, support vehicles, race officials, and of course media vehicles.
There's no telling how long the ban will be in effect. I have no doubt though that this is not the end of disc brakes in pro racing. The manufacturers have too much investment riding on their adoption to let it go now. Though the racers aren't exactly bemoaning their "old tech" rim brakes, and nobody has been able to prove that disc brakes truly superior technology, I'm sure we'll see more disc brakes in pro racing.
We do have to make "progress" after all.