Rain played a significant role in the thirty-eighth edition of the Tro Bro Leon and the storyline of a nervous race, requiring riders to demonstrate their endurance, resistance, luck, clarity and agility. Hugo Hofstetter (Team Arkea Samsic) wins the race ahead of Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels – KTM) and Connor Swift (Team Arkea Samsic).
The race started at 11.44 am with 22 teams and 152 riders, without former French champion Anthony Roux (Groupama-FDJ), who withdrew after a crash on Saturday in the Grand Prix du Morbihan. As the rain poured down, Marc Sarreau (AG2R-Citroën), Martin Urianstad (Uno-X Pro), Morné Van Niekerk (St-Michel – Auber 93) and Charles-Etienne Chrétien (Premier Tech U23) broke away as the peloton exited Porspoder (km 16). Their lead peaked at six minutes at the beginning of the first dirt sector (km 44) at the close of the opening hour.
It stopped raining briefly at Saint-Divy when the TotalEnergies team was the first to start the chase at Km 70. The gap progressively shrank, falling to 4:25s at the beginning of the sixth of the 29 dirt sectors (ribinou), where many riders who suffered punctures.
Marc Sarreau broke his rear wheel with 90 kilometres to go. But he regained his position in the leading group, whilst Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) accelerated hard on a series of dirt sectors that caused several punctures and crashes. The UAE-Team Emirates team paid a heavy price for their bad luck, with Mikkel Bjerg and Rui Oliveira retiring from the race.
On the seventh dirt sector, Anthony Turgis attacked and formed the lead group with defending Tro Bro Leon winner Connor Swift (Arkea-Samsic), Arnaud De Lie and Florian Vermeersch (Lotto-Soudal) before a peloton of some 60 riders formed again.
The race of the leading riders was still troubled by the punctures of Morné Van Niekerk and Martin Urianstad, with 71 kilometres to go. They regained their spots in the lead group before Marc Sarreau was dropped on the thirteenth dirt sector on the Kervidot climb.
Team TotalEnergies accelerated several times with Anthony Turgis and Niki Terpstra, whereas Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) was dropped and then retired. With 55 kilometres remaining, the breakaway held onto a 50- second lead from the peloton, led by Arkea-Samsic, which until then had avoided any bad luck.
Using their collective strength, the Breton team made a difference in the strategic La Ferme ribin. Clément Russo and Connor Swift took sixteen riders with them. After several accelerations, the defending winner of the Tro Bro Leon, Connor Swift accelerated with 26 kilometres to go. His teammate Laurent Pichon caught him three kilometres later in ribin 23 at Mescleguer, followed in the next dirt sector by 2021 Paris-Roubaix runner-up, Florian Verneersch (Lotto-Soudal), and Luca Mozzato (B&B Hotels-KTM). Stan De Wulf (AG2R-Citroën) was also in this group, but he crashed before the junction.
Fifteen kilometres from the finish, Baptiste Planckaert (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert), third in the 2021 Tro Bro Leon, tried to counter-attack with Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic) but suffered a puncture. Hofstetter re-joined the front of the race just as Florian Vermeersch got a flat tyre. The leading group then consisted of the three Arkea-Samsic riders and the Italian Mozzato.
On the second pass of the La Ferme ribin, Laurent Pichon fell victim to a puncture. He re-joined the race with the chasing group at 30 seconds.
The battle for the victory came down to Hofstetter, Mozzato and Connor Swift. The French rider won the sprint ahead of his Italian counterpart to take his first victory of the year. Up until today, he had finished on the podium seven times since the beginning of the season.
Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic les 207,8 km, 5h07’15”
Luca Mozzato (Ita) B&B Hotels-KTM +0″
Connor Swift (G-B), Team Arkea-Samsic +9″
Arnaud De Lie (Bel) Lotto-Soudal +30″
Samuel Watson (G-B) Groupama-FDJ +30″
Matis Louvel (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic +30″
Laurent Pichon (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic +30″
Morné Van Niekerk (Afs) St-Michel – Auber 93 +30″
Stan Dewulf (Bel) AG2R-Citroën Team +30″
Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) Groupama-FDJ +30″