Tom Boonen is in the swansong of his career – the former world champion, one of the greatest ever riders over the cobbles, will retire after Paris-Roubaix in April. And for the final few races of what has been a stellar career, he’ll be riding on disc brakes.
The use of disc brakes in the peloton is a controversial one, with many riders including Mark Cavendish voicing their opposition in the past on safety grounds.
Concerns intensified after Paris-Roubaix in April last year when Movistar rider Fran Ventoso claimed his knee had been badly cut by one in a crash at Paris-Roubaix, leading the UCI to suspend its trial of disc brakes.
But world cycling’s governing body has given the green light to the trial being reintroduced this year, and riders including world champion Peter Sagan seem likely to ride bikes sporting disc brakes this season.
Boonen’s bike is a Specialized Venge ViAS Disc, which he will be riding at the Vuelta a San Juan in Argentina, which runs from January 23 to January 29.
Some people may speculate that Boonen is riding a disc-brake equipped bike because that’s what his team’s supplier wants to sell, and it’s true that Specialized and other brands are pushing the tech.
But given he is in the last few months of his career and will be having his last ever tilt at winning the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, we can’t help thinking that perhaps Boonen himself has chosen what he believes to be the best tool for the job.
If he’s just being loyal to his sponsor, he’s doing a very good job of it. Over the weekend he told Patrick Fletcher of Cyclingnews that disc brakes “work better, they're easier to control, they lock out less fast than normal brakes. Of course I can control normal brakes but with disc brakes you have so much more feeling. It's the biggest improvement I've seen in my career – I don't know what all the hassle is about.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.