Flying into the UAE: Marc Hirschi
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
At the start of the year when Team DSM, formerly Team Sunweb, announced the mutual termination of Marc Hirschi’s contract, the cycling world was set ablaze. He had another year to run on his contract and coming off the back of a breakthrough season in the World Tour, it came as an almighty surprise. Hirschi’s destination was the hot topic of the day and predictions ranged from the rejuvenated AG2R Citroën to an early retirement, ala Marcel Kittel. The sensible option appeared to be one of the big-budget teams, perhaps Team INEOS Grenadiers.
In response to large swathes of fans beginning to dread seeing this prodigious talent turned into a domestique-deluxe at the service of Egan Bernal, the announcement of his signing at UAE Team Emirates was subsequently met with welcome surprise. On 9 January, through the now-obligatory playful transfer unveiling video, the former U23 World Champion was announced as joining the ranks alongside Tadej Pogacar and Alexander Kristoff.
It has been reported that Hirschi is in line for a big pay rise as a result of his move, which may well have been the deciding factor in leaving one of the most enjoyable teams of the 2020 road season. The rise of Hirschi began at the 2020 Tour de France, the scene of which Team Sunweb showed the world that success was not all about having big name riders. Through their entertaining and at times, downright genius tactics, the team became everybody’s favourite underdog throughout the course of the Grand Boucle. Hirschi first came to everybody’s attention when he managed to follow Adam Yates and Julian Alaphilippe to the finish of Stage 2 in Nice. But his first major mark on the race came through his doomed 80km+ breakaway on Stage 9, where he was ultimately caught by the GC riders in the final few kilometres, before narrowly being pipped to the stage victory by his new teammate, Tadej Pogacar, in the sprint. Despite this bitter disappointment, his season would only improve as he went on to win Stage 12 of the Tour and La Fleche Wallone, beating a brilliant field of riders. The panache and nerve in Hirschi’s riding are what stood out most of all last year, shown through his jaw-dropping descending during his lone breakaway.
He should be a thrilling rider to follow in 2021, with a lot of support shown his way. With a pedigree already developing in the one-day races, it would not be a surprise to see him snatch one of the Monuments. Whilst UAE Team Emirates’ Tour de France team will be designed in support of reigning champion Tadej Pogacar, it would be a huge surprise not to see Hirschi included. Between Pogacar and Hirschi, UAE Team Emirates have the potential to win plenty of stages throughout the three weeks. As for Team DSM, it is perhaps not as big of a loss as many may initially suggest; they are used to losing key riders over the past few years, including Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil. With incoming Romain Bardet and the prodigious Jai Hindley, they are not short of talent to win races and will look to use their creative riding in order to manoeuvre opportunities for all of their riders.
With comparisons already being made of Hirschi to his agent and fellow-countryman Fabian Cancellara, it will be of great interest where UAE Team Emirates see his future. Whether he sticks to explosive riding in the one-days or is moulded towards a GC rider for stage races, this move will certainly be an exciting move to watch.