Movistar rider Fran Ventoso says disc brakes should never have been allowed into the professional peloton after sustaining deep cuts to his leg in a crash at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.
Two teams rode the cobbled Classic on bikes equipped with disc brakes, which have been trialled in road races since last year – Italy’s Lampre-Merida, and the French outfit, Direct Energie.
The crash, which happened on the Quérénaing sector with 115 kilometres to ride, was the one that saw the field split, ultimately putting paid to the hopes of the men who started the race as joint favourites, Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan.
The 33-year-old rider, who has been with Movistar for six years, posted his open letter to Facebook – there is an English translation beneath the Spanish text – along with graphic pictures of his injuries.
He made it clear that he welcomed disc brakes being used in cyclo-cross races, as well as by amateur riders in sportives, but turning to professional road races, said; “Was there really anyone who thought things like Sunday’s wouldn’t happen? Really nobody thought they were dangerous? Nobody realised they can cut, they can become giant knives?”
Recalling the crash that led to his injury, he said there were “riders falling everywhere. I’ve got to brake but I can’t avoid crashing against the rider in front of me, who was also trying not to hit the ones ahead.
“I didn’t actually fall down: it was only my leg touching the back of his bike. I keep riding. But shortly afterwards, I have a glance at that leg: it doesn’t hurt, there’s not a lot of blood covering it, but I can clearly see part of the periosteum, the membrane or surface that covers my tibia.
“I get off my bike, throw myself against the right-hand side of the road over the grass, cover my face with my hands in shock and disbelief, start to feel sick … I could only wait for my team car and the ambulance, while a lot of things come through my mind.”
Ventoso said that shortly after his crash, the Etixx-Quick Step rider Nikolas Maes (pictured left here after crashing in the Arenberg Trench) was brought to the same ambulance, with a deep cut to his knee apparently caused by a disc brake.
Pointing out that 16 bikes were each equipped with a pair of disc brakes making a total of 32, he continued: “One question comes inevitably and immediately to one’s mind: what will happen when 396 discs get into a race where 198 riders ferociously battle for position?”
“Disc brakes should have NEVER arrived into the peloton, not at least as we know them right now,” Ventoso went on.
“I haven’t met any rider who has run out of braking power with traditional brakes; I haven’t known anyone who didn’t see his wheels skidding when you brake with all power you’ve got, no matter traditional or disc brakes. Then: why using them?”
Highlighting that disc brakes could also cause issues with wheel changes, including for neutral service providers, he likened them to “giant machetes,” adding, “I’ve been lucky: I didn’t get my leg chopped off, it’s just some muscle and skin. But can you imagine that disc cutting a jugular or a femoral vein? I would prefer not to.”
Ventoso called on fellow professionals to demand action regarding the use of disc brakes before anyone became seriously injured or worse.
“We always think that it’s not a problem if it doesn’t happen to ourselves. We always wait for horrible things to happen in order to take measures. Sooner or later, it could happen to anybody: it’s a matter of probability, we’ve all got the same.”
He concluded: “Discs produce cuts. This time it was me; tomorrow, it can be more serious and happen to others.”
The trialling of disc brakes in professional road races has proved to be one of the more contentious issues in the sport in the past year or so.
In February, former UCI president Pat McQuaid said it was “totally ridiculous” to permit their use in the peloton, and that the governing body had been “irresponsible” to allow them.
“Rather than carrying out tests, the UCI has left it to the teams to choose between using traditional brakes or disc brakes,” he said. “That’s irresponsible!
“Now there are two kinds of braking system in the peloton. Disc brakes are more powerful than ones using pads, but are vulnerable to shock and in the event of a crash can cause injuries.”
In December last year, after the UCI confirmed that disc brakes would be allowed in WorldTour races this season, the professional riders’ association, CPA, said it would survey its members to find out their views on them and present its findings to the UCI. No findings have to date been made public.
The CPA said at the time: “Certainly our sport is also a mechanical sport, but so far, research and innovation should not be implemented without considering the priority concerns of the riders, especially in terms of security,” it declares in a press release today.
“On numerous occasions we have exposed the various problems associated with this technology.”
Among star riders to have expressed opinions on disc brakes is Vincenzo Nibali.
The Astana rider is widely held to be the best descender in the peloton in the rain – a situation where disc brakes would provide extra stopping power compared to conventional rim brakes.
He said last year that he welcomed the opportunity to use them but added that he had reservations about how safe they would be in a crash involving multiple riders.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.