Kittel has not decided if he will continue to trial the brakes throughout the season at large but began stage two on Friday, which he won, on rim brakes in a mark of respect to the bunch.
The German sprinter was entangled in a late crash with Owain Doull (Sky) on Thursday, the latter attributing a clean slice through his left shoe to Kittel’s disc brakes, which the UCI reintroduced on a trial basis this season.
“I will not use the disc brake bike today out of respect for my colleagues because I understand the safety issues,” Kittel said.
“I think the most important thing here is that we as riders stick together and have one voice. Of course, we should have discussion about it, opinions will always be different, but I can understand if there might be a mental problem with it at the moment and I don’t want to put oil in that fire and make it even worse.”
Isolated injuries perceived to be from disc brakes have contributed to a stigma that by popular vote currently outweighs any advancement the technology could herald. UCI regulations currently require rotors to be fully smoothed but the CPA rider union claims it’s not enough and has called for an increase in protective measures including covers, which Kittel supports.
The 28-year-old said he did not feel pushed by team sponsors like Specialized to use disc brakes, which he and teammate Tom Boonen have both won on this season.
“No, not at all. I do not get paid to ride the disc brakes as some of my colleagues joked. I’m also not here to drive a marketing campaign for disc brakes,” Kittel said. “I think it can be the next step in technology in our sport, I still have that opinion, but I think it’s also a smart move to see how it develops now, keeping working on it.
“Our sponsors came up to me and everyone else on the team and said if you really want to ride it we support you, but they don’t force us, they don’t push us. They are of course happy to get feedback from us when we ride it, but there is no pressure.”
Kittel said he was not disappointed by the fall-out from Thursday’s crash, which also triggered debate as to the plausibility of a disc brake slicing through Doull’s shoe and grazing his foot directly underneath.
“Everyone has the right to say what he thinks and there was a good chance that it might have been possible that it was from the disc brakes,” Kittel said. “I’m not here to defend it because when I crashed I really couldn’t see what happened.
“I still support the technology but I’m also really in support of those riders who are maybe still scared, and I’m happy to talk to everyone to try to convince them. But also, I’m asking for extra investigations and safety measures.”