"You've been Punk'd!" – Benoît Cosnefroy, probably. Photo: Dario Balingheri, Getty Images.

Breaking: Not Benoît Cosnefroy’s arm

A round of paintball gone wrong? Or something else entirely?

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Benoît Cosnefroy didn’t break his arm playing paintball last weekend. 

In that fact – with all due respect to Mr Cosnefroy – he is not unique. I didn’t break my arm playing paintball last weekend. You probably didn’t either. Unless I’m dramatically underestimating either the popularity of paintball or its risks, roughly 8 billion other people didn’t break their arms playing paintball last weekend. 

And yet, here we are. Why? Because Benoît Cosnefroy just fake-newsed the French media into reporting on a fictitious injury, prompting hurried retractions as they realised it was all a prank. 

Confusing? Let’s back up a little.

Benoît Cosnefroy, a cherubic French cyclist who rides for AG2R-Citroën, is getting married this weekend. In time-honoured condition, he got The Boyz together for an Enterrement de Vie de Garçon (a buck’s party, but French, abbreviated to EVG). The Boyz decided to play a social media prank on Cosnefroy’s betrothed, Margaux, wrapping his arm in plaster and pretending he’d broken it. Simple, wholesome fun. We’ve all been there. 

Unfortunately, Benoît Cosnefroy is not just a lad on the lash, but one of the darlings of French cycling [ed. #3 on my personal list behind Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe, thanks for asking]. So when one of The Boyz posted a picture on their Instagram story with Cosnefroy in a cast, it was panic stations at the sports desk. 

There’s a bit to unpack in the above screenshot. Up top – “J -7” (wedding day, -7). Splashed across the picture – “EVG: 1 – BeuBeu: 0” (Beubeu is just one of Cosnefroy’s suite of whimsical nicknames [‘the Cherbourg Cheetah’ is another]). Cosnefroy’s comment, roughly paraphrased: “Thanks anyway The Boyz ❤️ 😣”.

The aforementioned Boyz dutifully filled in the gaps to keep the story going; Cosnefroy’s best man, AG2R teammate Aurélien Paret-Peintre, suggested it was “one round too many of paintball”. All of that was enough for numerous outlets including Eurosport, Ouest-France, and BFM to take the bait. Breaking news: broken arm.

It was never going to last, of course. Within a couple of hours, the truth was revealed – that it was a bit of off-season fun, intended not to create national hysteria but to fluster a fiancée. That led to a round of rewrites as publications pretended they were in on the joke the whole time.

Ouest-France admitted they’d been caught out by what was apparently a “perfectly staged joke that fooled many people, including Ouest-France” who had been concerned about Cosnefroy’s “serious injury”. For some reason even Benoît’s dad, Franck Cosnefroy – the owner of a glorious handlebar moustache, incidentally – was approached for comment, saying that “it was too big to be true … Me, I didn’t believe this plaster story for a single second!”

As for AG2R-Citroën’s media person on the cusp of winter hibernation, it was probably an enervating couple of hours. “We are in the process of putting out the fire,” a team spokesperson drily told Actu, presumably before hanging up and giving Cosnefroy and Paret-Peintre a spray for being so incorrigible.

Still, could be worse. In 2017, Luke Rowe broke numerous actual bones in his leg on a whitewater rafting trip for a buck’s party. “I lifted my leg, but my foot stayed still, it was kind of hanging off, limp. The bone didn’t break the skin, but it is pretty scary when you look down and see that when you are on the side of a riverbank,” he later explained in ghoulish detail.

Next to that story, I prefer literally everything about Benoît Cosnefroy’s ‘injury’.

CyclingTips wishes Benoît and Margaux a very happy life together, for richer and poorer, in (fake, social media) sickness and health.

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