Mathieu van der Poel handlebar scare 'could have been much worse'; Canyon issues ‘stop ride’ notice
In Le Samyn on Tuesday we saw Mathieu van der Poel give up on the win, after discovering that his right brake hood and shifter appeared to have come free from his handlebar. He was able to roll it home gently across the line, but the failure has created major ripples in the pro cycling world, with his team Alpecin-Fenix and women's WorldTour squad Canyon SRAM now without their best aero bikes.
Dutch cyclist Mathieu van der Poel of Alpecin-Fenix crosses the finish line with a broken handlebar during the Grand Prix du Samyn one-day cycling race, in Dour on March 2, 2021.
Canyon, the bike brand that provides racing machines to Mathieu van der Poel’s Alpecin-Fenix team, has issued a ‘stop ride’ instruction on some of its top-end road machines after dramatic scenes in Le Samyn.
The news comes after Van der Poel was seen to break his handlebar in the closing kilometres of Tuesday's one-day race in Belgium, a rigorous classic race with several cobbled sections along the course. The particular handlebar and stem arrangement, known as a cockpit, feature on Canyon’s premium Aeroad CF SLX and Aeroad CFR models.
The German company went on to explain that its professional riders will not be using either model for the foreseeable future while further testing is carried out to determine what exactly caused the failure of so crucial a part.
“Mathieu fortunately did not fall. We want to ensure with absolute certainty that no one comes to harm before we have fully understood the root cause,” said Roman Arnold, Canyon’s founder.
“We are doing everything we can to equip affected Aeroad models as quickly as possible with a cockpit that meets both our and our customers’ demands for total quality and safety,” added Armin Landgraf, the company’s CEO.
Canyon also provide bikes for top-flight women’s squad Canyon SRAM.
2021 Le Samyn men's highlights as Tim Merlier wins the race
OUR VIEW - Could have been so much worse... but Van der Poel could challenge on a tricycle
While this is not a particularly good look for one of the world’s biggest bicycle manufacturers, one that also had some grief related to the design of their seat posts not so long ago, the incident in Le Samyn could have been so, so much worse.
As the brand has been swift to point out, the failure appeared near to the brake hood, rather than right in the centre – had the bar snapped clean in half then the ensuing collapse might have been all the more dramatic.
In the end Tim Merlier was able to save the situation for Alpecin-Fenix and win Le Samyn anyway so in a very real sense there was neither harm nor foul. The big loser in the situation appeared to be Florian Senechal of Deceuninck-QuickStep who was away off the front in a twosome with Van der Poel when the Dutch champ discovered the failure. Senechal might have been hoping to ride to the finish with Van der Poel and contest a two-up sprint – but it wasn't to be and he had to go back to the peloton to take his chances from the bunch.
Does the fact he won’t be able to use the Aeroad CF SLX and CFR throw a spanner in the works for van der Poel as he prepares for an intense six-week run of classics action? Maybe, maybe not.
They say the bike makes a big difference, and some riders are more pernickety than others about their riding setup. Having to ride a bike he’s not used to might throw Van der Poel off a little. However, in some of these warm-up races, Van der Poel has looked like someone who could be competitive on a child’s tricycle, let alone ‘last year’s’ top-spec Canyon race bike. His rivals would be unwise to count him out on the strength of this mechanical mishap alone.