From Friday, the Bernese will take part in his third Tour de France. UAE Team Emirates driver, retired to replace teammate Matteo Trentin, hopes to take advantage of his recovered form to guide his leader Tadej Pogacar towards a new crown.
Summer 2020. The world is boundless, sport resumes. The Tour de France does take place, but it takes place exceptionally in late summer. This postponement, historical, is a lesser evil for the platoon compared to the destinations reserved for other major events. The Tokyo Olympics and the men’s soccer European Championship, to name a few, haven’t been postponed for a year?
Maintaining the Grande Boucle will be especially beneficial for two young cyclists with long teeth: Tadej Pogacar and Marc Hirschi. Because the Slovenian and the Swiss, both from the 1998 class, splashed their talent for three weeks during this 107th edition. The first goes to Paris with his first yellow jersey on his shoulders, the second with the Super-combative award in his bag.
This honorary title, the Bernese fully deserves it. After two places of honor (2nd in the 2nd stage in Nice, 3rd in the 9th stage in Laruns), the Sunweb rider –now DSM– won the timpani in Corrèze after a magnificent solo number in the 12th stage . In life form, he won the bronze medal at the World Championships following the Tour de France, then triumphed at the top of the Mur de Huy at the Flèche Wallonne.
Something to draw the attention of the UAE Team Emirates formation of the Tadej Pogacar phenomenon, which he joined in early 2021. Since then, Marc Hirschi has been juggling bad form, injury and role of teammate. But he does not regret forcing his relocation.
“On the contrary, I am very happy with my choice,” he said. At the moment, I have a two-year contract. (note: until the end of the 2023 season). However, I would like to stay a long time on this team. It is a good training, which progresses every year. We must not forget that this team is young. He’s only five or six years old at the World Tour level (under Emirati flag since 2017). But I feel that every year we get better, we grow. That’s why I would like to stay here for many years. “
However, within a structure totally dedicated to the cause of the Slovenian “cannibal”, where the latter is under contract until 2027, the Ittigen pilot is not the first option. And it makes sense. But he accepts his new status. “It’s true that we usually all ride for Tadej,” admits what started at BMC Development. But sometimes we all have more freedom and chances to win stages. It should have been like this in the last Tour de Suisse, but the Bernese contracted the Covid-19 and his team was forced to retire.
Restored, he was initially not summoned by his team who preferred to preserve him. Before the UAE quickly called him on Wednesday to replace teammate Matteo Trentin’s package, which tested positive for Covid-19. The Bernese is on the attack to give his first rides to Danish soil on Friday, where the 23-year-old prodigy will find relative anonymity on this occasion. No bitterness or frustration. “It ‘s not complicated (accept) because cycling is a team sport, it slips. I am very pleased to be part of this training, where a real teamwork is done to help Tadej win the Tour de France. I find it great to compete alongside him. It’s a wonderful experience. “
But is it up to a personal victory? “It’s different, but the two types of success are really beautiful. My stage victory at the Grande Boucle in 2020 was magnificent. But winning the Tour de France general the following year as a teammate was just as important. I already want to start in Copenhagen, especially because we have a great chance of winning again. “
Winner of the Tour of Slovenia ten days ago, Tadej Pogacar arrives in optimal condition and seems ready to get the three-way pass in France. But to achieve this feat, the best runner in the world today, however, will need lieutenants to match. Well, Marc Hirschi has been gaining momentum since the beginning of the year, as evidenced by his two successes at Per Semper Alfredo, in March, and at the Aarau GP on 10 June.
“I had hip surgery last December,” he says. I feel so much better now. Since then, I’ve been able to do good workouts. Now I hope to be able to find my level shown in 2020. I feel like I’m not that far off that way. The operation was the right decision and will allow me to regain the level I had two years ago. At least that’s the goal. “
Only to finally get rid of the difficulties encountered during his first season with the UAE Team Emirates. And to remind his employer that he does have a second prodigy in his ranks.
“Obviously my team expects more from me,” he admits. When you get results, you always have more pressure on your shoulders. Because everyone expects you to do it again. Even if I hadn’t changed teams, I’m sure they would have expected me to win the Tour de France or another major race again. But that expectation is normal. It’s always easier to win the first time. Confirmation is always more complicated.
Back in the land of his first feats, the one who “dreams of one day becoming world champion” will no doubt do his best to shine in the shadows for the next three weeks.