Bianchi’s Oltre XR2 has been a pro steed for a couple of seasons now, but is still very competitive alongside the current carbon crop. With a frameset that shows a stage of road aero evolution between its recent origins and today’s ever more refined machines, the Oltre XR2 was ahead of its time. Checking off the now expected features such as aero shaping, universal cable routing, recessed fork crown, hourglass head-tube, hidden seat clamp and internal battery placement, the Bianchi wants for little.
The tube shapes are rather more angular, with a diamond-shaped down tube and teardrop seat tube and seatpost, compared with the common truncated foil designs. A beefy monostay and laterally flattened seatstays give no concessions to the breeze, save for the minimal inverted T-shaped rear brake mount between them. The multi-faceted top tube links to the oversized head tube area, matched by a vast bottom bracket area, ensuring rigidity in the right places.
Chunky chainstays contribute to efficiency, while slim seatstays keep the Bianchi comfortable
Apart from the bar tape, just a few hints of Bianchi’s famous Celeste hue appear within the frame’s fine detailing – in contrast to the machine Robert Gesink, who had an impressive Stage 10 of the TdF this week, has been riding. That aside though, this is a very near team replica.
A generous 160mm head tube meant that slamming the fairly short stem on our example wasn’t hard. The carbon braided Fizik Arione saddle, carbon cockpit plus 50mm Shimano C50 tubular wheelset leaves little room for gram shedding, but why would you need to? A complete Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset with sprint shifters, 53/39 and 11-25 means business, and very rapid business at that.
At home on virtually any terrain except perhaps cobbles, the Oltre XR2 is brutally efficient, stomping remorselessly through our local rolling lanes. It’s a truly great climber too, and packs a feisty sprint, as shown by Moreno Hofland’s win in the 2015 Tour de Yorkshire. The new 24mm wide C50 wheelset and 25mm Vittoria tubulars are definitely instrumental in the bike’s cultured feel, keeping it zinging on the flat, gripping beautifully, and dispensing with false flats as if they weren’t there. It’s a true pro combination, and the universal boost in speed over familiar roads is astounding.
The new Zipp-challenging Dura-Ace rims are much better in crosswinds than earlier models
The new rim shape is also a great improvement in the wind, with no sharp snaps in very gusty crosswinds, and greatly improved stability. Braking is impressive too, and from the start was quiet, progressive and very efficient, a real Zipp Firecrest challenger. Several of our Tour superbikes come with Di2 sprint shifters fitted, but the Bianchi has them sited in the best position, making them spot on for shifting when sprinting, but not compromising your grip when you’re braking.
Fantastic road feel doesn’t equate to extreme comfort, as although the XR2’s tubulars go a long way towards smoothing choppy surfaces, the Oltre has a relatively firm ride. As a race machine, it’s quite acceptable in the pursuit of ultimate speed, which the Bianchi really delivers.