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“That’s not normal”: Arkéa-Samsic pro breaks TWO sets of Bianchi handlebars during cobbled race

Poor Hugo Hofstetter’s chances of winning a chaotic edition of the GP de Denain were derailed by crashes and some flimsy bars – just as his Bianchi Oltre RC was awarded the ‘Best Race Bike’ title at the CyclingWorld Europe awards…

Update, 17/03/23: Bianchi has now responded: click here for more

As the well-known cycling fan Oscar Wilde once said (I think), to break one set of handlebars during a race may be regarded as a misfortune; to break two looks like carelessness – or some questionable engineering, according to rampant speculation about why the incident occurred…

But that’s the cruel fate that befell Arkéa-Samsic’s Hugo Hofstetter at today’s chaotic edition of the Grand Prix de Denain, a French cobbled semi-classic featuring 23km of cobbled lanes and which acts as an amuse-bouche for next month’s main course of hellish roads, Paris-Roubaix.

The in-form Hofstetter, who went into today’s race as one of the big favourites, first hit the deck on a muddy section of cobbles with around 50km to go.

While the 29-year-old Frenchman was quick to jump to his feet, running along the grass verge to re-join the peloton, he soon realised that the handlebars of his Bianchi Oltre RC were snapped, the Shimano Dura-Ace shifters flailing in the wind.

Hugo Hofstetter's bars break during GP Denain (GCN)

That’s less than ideal…

After swapping his broken Bianchi for a spare, the unfortunate Hofstetter crashed again with 30km to go as the race split to pieces on the rough farm tracks of northern France.

That Hofstetter crashed twice during today’s race was not much of a surprise – the slick cobblestones led to a series of pileups throughout the day, and caused the following motorbike riders to come unstuck on a few occasions. AG2R Citroën’s Stan Dewulf even ended up, Biff from Back to the Future-style, in a pile of roadside manure after one particularly dramatic spill.

What was unbelievable, however, was that flimsy handlebar lightning struck twice for Hofstetter as the Bianchi Oltre’s bars snapped once more, this time on the right-hand side, prompting the understandably frustrated Frenchman to shake his head and raise two fingers to the camera, before recording a dejected DNF.

Meanwhile, Brian Smith, sitting in the GCN commentary box, sighed that the Arkéa-Samsic rider’s bar troubles were “not normal”.

Smith’s disbelief was, unsurprisingly, echoed on social media:

This couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for Bianchi. Just as Hofstetter was shaking his head in frustration at his bike’s structural woes, Bianchi announced through a press release that its Oltre RC – the very machine the Arkéa-Samsic pro was riding (and breaking) today – was awarded the ‘Best Race Bike’ award at the 2023 CyclingWorld Europe Awards. Awkward…

2023 Bianchi Oltre RC Arkea Samsic - 1

> Bianchi returns to WorldTour with Team Arkéa-Samsic – but those Air Deflectors are missing

The Oltre RC, the iconic Italian brand’s flagship aero bike, was unveiled last October, a month before Bianchi announced its return to the WorldTour with Arkéa-Samsic.

The striking bike features an integrated aero cockpit which is designed “to generate low-pressure air vortices directed towards the legs of the moving athlete through a centrally located hole” (and not, we presume, though dangling shifters).

> Disc brake injury leaves pro cyclist with 35 stitches

While the bars proved a source of constant sorrow for Hofstetter, they held up pretty well for his British teammate Dan McLay, who won the bunch sprint for 12th while presumably pulling hard on his integrated cockpit.

Not that that will cheer up poor Hugo (who seems to be cursed when it comes to bike problems in the spring) too much, however…

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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the infamous grouse | 1 year ago

ahh, 'innovation' .. should've kept the 5D/6D ACR instead.

Off the back | 1 year ago

I love Bianchi. I have owned 5 down the years. All but one in Celeste. They are such an iconic brand. 

But the current Oltre is a Monstrosity. It is the least Bianchi bike I have ever seen. Itslisn bikes should look sleek. This is an angular eyesore.

dubwise | 1 year ago

Brian Smith made some interesting comments during the race today.

Apparently he was involved in setting up a race on single track roads in Scotland but British Cycling refused permission on H&S grounds as well as some teams having an unfair advantage.

I guess the clowns at BC have never watched racing in Belguim or Northern France.

No wonder the state of road racing is so dire in the UK, with these numpties in charge.

Freddy56 | 1 year ago

"or some questionable engineering…"

Poor paragraph by the author. The bars didnt fail during expected and normal usage. 2 crashes with unknow forces.

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