“Everyone expected Alaphilippe to attack. I was about to come back up when he attacked, so I wasn’t perfectly on the wheel, but I knew if I could reach his wheel you could still take a bit of a wake on it. go up and it got flatter near the top, ”Hirschi said afterwards. “I almost exploded, but somehow I made it over the top. ”
At the top, Hirschi and Alaphilippe were joined by Yates, and the trio had a 14-second buffer over a small field as they began the descent to Nice. Despite a blocky headwind, they were still 20 seconds ahead of their pursuers by the time they reached the Red flame – a lead that they dangerously nearly wasted looking at each other before the sprint. Hirschi based his efforts on Alaphilippe, but he couldn’t quite get past him on the line.
“I focused on the stage victory and not the GC or whatever,” said Hirschi. “In the final, I got behind the wheel of Alaphilippe, but I was still a little late. I tried to get around it, but I was a little too late. I’m disappointed because I could have taken the yellow, but I’m still very happy with the white jersey. ”
‘The Mbappé of cycling’
Hirschi may not have been familiar to some of his opponents in the Nice hinterland on Sunday afternoon, but he entered the professional ranks in early 2019 armed with a notable calling card, having become the first man to win the Under 23 road race. at the European and World Championships in the same season. This feat may have been overshadowed by Remco Evenepoel’s astonishing performances in the junior editions of these races, but Sunweb had long been convinced of the quality of Hirschi. They had signed him a professional contract before he claimed any of his titles.
Hirschi started cycling at the age of 11, inspired both by his father’s passion for sports at home and by the success of fellow Bernese Fabian Cancellara on the international stage.
“Fabian Cancellara also influenced me, for sure, because I live very close to him,” said Hirschi Cycling Last year. “I started cycling in his prime and I admired him. ”
His childhood hero later became his agent, and in an interview with Schweizer Illustrierte in the spring, Cancellara compared his new client to a young football star.
“He has the potential of a Kylian Mbappé,” Cancellara said with admiration. “Marc has the right skills. But talent is also expressed in a broad interest and a thirst for knowledge, and you can feel it clearly with Marc. ”
Like the Paris-Saint-Germain striker, Hirschi’s talent seems to be matched by an erased pace of work. Although many aspiring Under-23 pros devote their time entirely to cycling, Hirschi only became a full-time rider weeks before winning the European title. On leaving school he spent four years combining his nascent racing career with an apprenticeship organized in collaboration with the Solothurn Sports Academy.
“I did an apprenticeship in an office for four years, in basic office work,” Hirschi explained. “It’s really good, because if I have an accident or something, I could go straight to work. ”
Hirschi started his life on wheels as a mountain biker, but road, cyclo-cross and track racing were added to his repertoire as a teenager. As a junior he won gold in Madison at the World Championships, but dropped out of track racing the following year when he joined the BMC development team.
“In the juniors in Switzerland, everyone does the track too, but I decided to focus on the road afterwards because I think it’s too difficult to do both in the under 23s”, did he declare. “I had to make a choice, and my choice was road cycling. ”
His teammates at BMC included fellow Tour debutant Pavel Sivakov (now Ineos) and Jasper Philipsen (now UAE Team Emirates), but the team was disbanded at the end of 2017 as the bike maker reduced its commitments from sponsorship. By this time Hirschi was already a European bronze medalist and Sunweb quickly recruited him for their development team.
Hirschi’s best displays this season have come with the Swiss U23 squad, where he credited their shared military service during the winter of 2017-18 to creating the esprit de corps which saw young riders with fierce individual ambitions dedicate themselves to a common cause at the Worlds.
“Most of the team did military service together, so we lived together all winter, for 17 weeks,” he said.
Tour plans remain unchanged
As an Under-23 rider, Hirschi impressed on a range of terrains – he finished sixth in the Tour of Flanders and fourth in the Tour de l’Ain – but speaking to Cycling in the first months of his professional career, he risked that his future might lie in the Ardennes Classics.
“It’s still pretty hard to say what kind of driver I will become, but if I have to say then I can be a rider for a day in races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Ardennes Classics in general,” said Hirschi, although he was talking to Cycling just days after finishing 10th after an offensive display at E3 BinckBank Classic. He admitted that at some point in the future he would also like to test himself as a stage runner.
At the end of his first season, Hirschi went on to finish third behind Evenepoel at the Clásica de San Sebastián and fifth at the BinckBank Tour. The coronavirus pandemic interrupted Hirschi’s second season in March, but he returned to action at the Critérium du Dauphiné in August and grabbed attention with two solid demonstrations in mountainous terrain last weekend. Despite his loving years, Sunweb chose to include him in their Tour de France squad, leaving established names like Michael Matthews and Sam Oomen off the list.
Sunday evening, the Sunweb team quickly took advantage of Hirschi’s fine demonstration to bury the news that after Marcel Kittel, Warren Barguil and Tom Dumoulin, another high-level rider chose to terminate his contract a year earlier than expected. . Matthews’ disappointment at missing out on Tour selection was so obvious that there was little surprise in Sunday night’s confirmation that he will not be staying with Sunweb in 2021, with the announcement later that ‘he would return to the Australian WorldTour team Mitchelton-Scott.
In the here and now, nominal Tour de Sunweb leader Tiesj Benoot lost more than 17 minutes on stage 2. Hirschi, meanwhile, is currently third in the overall standings, just seven seconds behind. ‘Alaphilippe. yellow jersey, although he played down the idea that he would seek to remove the Frenchman from the jersey in the coming days, politely insisting that his ambitions for the Tour are the same now as they were initially.
“I’m going to take it day in and day out,” Hirschi said. “I want to defend the white jersey as long as possible, but my objectives will remain the same: I will try to participate in the breakaway and to participate in the stages. “