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.”
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.