Bianchi releases statement after Hugo Hofstetter snaps two pairs of handlebars
Bianchi has released a statement regarding French sprinter Hugo Hofstetter's mechanical issues at the Grand Prix de Denain one-day race on Thursday.
The Arkéa-Samsic rider had two pairs of carbon handlebars break on his Bianchi Oltre RC team race bike within the last 50km of the race, eventually leading to him abandoning the race. The first problem came as a result of a crash just under 50km from the line which saw the left-hand side of his one-piece carbon fibre handlebars fail.
The break occurred around the point the tops of the bars begin their turn towards the brake levers, and Hofstetter was forced to ride on with handlebars dangling before he could receive service from his team car, the only thing connecting the handlebars being the Shimano hydraulic brake hose.
After receiving a fresh bike, television images showed Hofstetter riding at around 26km to go on the race's 10th cobbled sector at Monchaux-sur-Ecaillon, this time with the right-hand side of his handlebars snapped in exactly the same way.
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A second crash wasn't televised, but it looked like the second failure must have been a direct result of an impact similar to the first.
The pair of incidents garnered much attention from race commentators and on social media and manufacturer Bianchi released a statement with its interpretation of the incident, defending its equipment.
Bianchi stated it wanted to clarify the following three points and claimed the brand had been in constant contact with both team and rider following the race's finish.
"As already communicated by Team Arkea-Samsic, the breaks suffered by the handlebar of the Bianchi Oltre RC used by the athlete were caused by two different falls in which the rider was unluckily involved, during two separate but proximate segments of the race. In both cases, the incident caused a severe impact on the component."
It was unconfirmed from initial broadcasts whether the second failure occurred as a result of a crash, but Bianchi's claims indicate a second crash and subsequent impact were responsible. Bianchi went on to defend the safety standards of its equipment.
"Like all Bianchi products, Oltre RC handlebars have successfully passed validation test protocols in accordance with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 4210-5 regulations and are therefore safe to use by both our customers and professional athletes equipped with Bianchi."
The incident echoes a technical failure of Mathieu van der Poel's handlebars at Le Samyn in 2021, however here, Bianchi clearly attributes the equipment damage to the crash, rather than design fault such was the case with Canyon's subsequent recall.
"The possible breakage of a carbon fiber handlebar is a predictable condition as a consequence of a strong impact generated by uncontrollable dynamics."
Finally, Bianchi concluded by saying: "Bianchi holds the safety of its customers and professional athletes in the highest consideration. The company constantly invests in research and development, as well as in laboratory and on-road testing activities to guarantee the safe use of its products."
Team Arkéa-Samsic, nor Hofstetter himself have commented on the incident thus far.