Earlier this week, the French Cycling Federation (FFC) took the decision to ban disc brakes in French sportives. Events such as La Marmotte and L’Etape du Tour are hugely popular with British riders and many participants will now find that their bikes are no longer permitted.
The ban has understandably proven problematic for cycle tour operators focusing on such events.
La Fuga have written to their customers on the Etape and Marmotte to ensure they are all informed of the change, but a spokesman said that they themselves had been reliant on the cycling press to stay abreast of developments thus far.
“We have been able to solve some issues by offering customers our rental bikes. Also, most of our customers have multiple bikes and so are able to swap which bike they bring. However, some of them are really stuck as to what to do as they have amazing, custom-made disc brake bikes and are now unsure of what to do given that they are booked onto the trips. We've also had no communication from the organisers and have been left to deal with this by reading about it in the cycling press.”
Le Domestique Tours have also been arranging replacement bikes for a number of their customers, but the firm’s director, Robert Cartledge, points out that it’s a tricky situation for the sportives too. He believes the ruling has been imposed by the FFC due to insurance requirements, giving organisers little option but to implement it.
“The FFC and Marmotte organisers are, we understand, discussing whether a compromise solution can be reached and they plan to provide an update next week."
Cartledge adds that the situation is particularly galling for cyclists who have invested heavily in bikes which have quite suddenly been deemed unacceptable.
"The ban is proving incredibly frustrating and while we understand safety concerns trump everything, it does seem like a knee jerk reaction with little evidence to back it up. We have been in conversations with several guests whose sole road bike is disc equipped and they are rightly concerned, having spent their money on bikes that have had their use approval withdrawn overnight.”
We’ve not yet heard of any British sportives changing their rules however. Human Race, who have teamed up with ASO to bring a French flavour to some of their sportives told us: “This is a French Federal Bureau decision affecting only certain events on French soil governed by the FFC. Human Race events in the UK, specifically Dragon Ride L’Etape Wales by Le Tour de France and ICAP L’Etape London by Le Tour de France, will not be impacted.”
Prudential RideLondon Event Director Hugh Brasher said: "Safety is our priority and we continually review equipment that is permitted in our non-competitive cycling events. Currently we don’t have any plans to ban the use of disc brakes for our mass participation cycling events.”