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Marc Hirschi looking to conquer the classics before expanding horizons further afield

Swiss standout to target Ardennes classics and Olympics in 2021 after breakout 2020 season.

Marc Hirschi is looking for more of the same in 2021 after a breakout ride through this summer.

The young Swiss animated this year’s Tour de France with his breakaway antics, won La Flèche Wallonne, and took bronze at the world championships in a two-month spell that marked him as the hottest new puncheur in the peloton.

Having only ridden in the WorldTour with Team Sunweb for two years so far, Hirschi still doesn’t know the extent of his own capabilities. However, the 22-year-old talent does know that for now, he wants to stick with the winning formula rather than dipping a toe into racing for GC.

“I want to be the best as the current type of rider I am,” Hirschi said on a group call Tuesday. “In the near future, I want to focus on one-day races like the Ardennes classics – they suit me the best. And I’d like to try Flanders. And then other things like one-week races and grand tours … I’ll see in the future if they suit me or not.”

Hirschi’s searing performance at the Tour saw him land a stage win and two podium placings as he repeatedly animated the racing, launching into breakaways with his wily Sunweb teammates and attacking until something stuck.

The Sunweb star’s ride in France and following success in the Ardennes classics – a victory at Flèche and second-place in Liège after seeing his sprint disrupted by Julian Alaphilippe’s wayward acceleration for the line – proved that Hirschi is a puncheur with the chops to take on the likes of Alaphilippe at his own game. Indeed, it was only the Frenchman that denied him victory in the final sprint in downtown Nice on the Tour’s second stage.

It’s likely Hirschi and Alaphilippe could be sharing a podium again very soon as the Swiss rider looks toward similar targets commonly focussed on by his French foil.

“The first goal is the Ardennes, and they’re the main thing,” Hirschi said. “From there I’ll have to see. One for sure will be the Olympic Games, but first I want to focus in full on the classics. Grand tours are more of a long-term project. I don’t think in the next years I’ll ride for GC …  it needs some time. I want to focus on where I’m good, like one-day races. I want to win more of them first.”

Hirschi launched himself from relative anonymity into the world’s spotlight with his success this summer. He went into the Tour with what he described as almost no expectations bar “to be in a break, to be in the mix,” Hirschi emerged as the hottest Swiss prospect since time trial and classics megastar Fabian Cancellara, who acts as a manager and mentor for his young countryman.

Having come close to taking a hat-trick of wins at the Tour only to be edged out by the world-beaters such as Alaphilippe (on stage 2) and Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar (on stage 9), Hirschi is only focussing on the positives of his debut grand tour.

“It feels amazing. I was disappointed to lose out in sprints at first, but even to get third, I was close. And that’s a success for me,” he said. “In the first moment it was hard but it was still a success for me just to be there and do what I did. Even before the Tour, it would have been a dream just to be there.”

Hirschi said he aspired to riders such as Alaphilippe and Spanish supremo Alejandro Valverde during his formative years. If he continues his upward momentum, his two heroes will be looking up to him before they know it.