The internet nearly broke this week when Team DSM confirmed they would be parting ways with Marc Hirschi.
The 22-year-old puncheur had 12 months left on a three-year deal with the German squad, and the news of his early departure stirred a tornado of speculation as to where the Swiss rider would be heading next.
- Marc Hirschi and Team DSM part ways
- Marc Hirschi looking to conquer the classics before expanding horizons further afield
After marking himself as one of the brightest new prospects in the WorldTour with a stage win at the Tour de France, victory at La Flèche Wallone, and bronze medal at the world championships, what team wouldn’t want Hirschi on the books? The rumor mill pumped out many candidates, though the strongest evidence suggests that UAE-Team Emirates is the closest to securing the youngster’s signature.
Should the reports be true, how do we see the 22-year-old slotting in at the home of Tadej Pogačar? And in a fairytale world, where else would we like to see Hirschi riding in 2021?
How do you see Hirschi slotting in at UAE-Team Emirates?
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): At first, I was a little surprised to hear that UAE-Team Emirates may be Hirschi’s home for 2021. After Pogačar’s phenomenal 2020, I expected that the team would be focusing predominantly on GC racing with Pog and new signing Rafal Majka.
However, the team already has Ardennes-style riders Diego Ulissi and Davide Formolo on the books, and has signed Matteo Trentin for the new season. And let’s not forget that Pogačar is no slouch in one-day races after his string of top results in the classics last year. Adding Hirschi into that pot would give the Emirati outfit a formidable selection for the hilly classics.
UAE-Team Emirates may also be looking further down the line. Hirschi has stated he wants to keep focused on the classics for the coming seasons, but wouldn’t rule out dipping a toe into general classification riding in the future. The team has a reputation for developing young talent, and maybe they’re planning on grooming Hirschi into a future stage race star.
One other point – the Emirati team has got a substantial budget and big ambition, and let’s face it, cash is king, no matter how well a rider thinks they might fit in a squad.
Andrew Hood (@eurohoody): Signing Hirschi will do a few things for the team. His punchy presence will take pressure off Tadej Pogačar, and add a potent arrow to the team’s quiver.
It’s true Hirschi and Pogačar have similar skill-sets when it comes to the classics, but if Pogačar doubles-down on the yellow jersey for the next few years, racing the hilly spring classics doesn’t always fit into the schedule.
Enter Hirschi. He can carry team colors in the spring classics, and provide a growing GC presence in the one-week stage races. Paris-Nice is a course ideal for Hirschi to flex his GC muscles. At the Tour, Hirschi will still have room to roam, and the team can use his aggressive style to keep rivals off-balance.
With the exit of Fabio Aru, and the growing success of the team, there is obviously some are some extra dirham in the team coffers. The team is quickly moving up the WorldTour hierarchy, and the arrival of Hirschi reveals the team is more ambitious than ever.
In a dream world, where would you like to see Hirschi in 2021?
Andrew: The natural pick is Deceuninck-Quick-Step. The self-styled “wolfpack” would be ideal for Hirschi’s attacking style. Of course, having the reigning world champion targeting the same races means cohabitation could go poorly. And one could guess the team doesn’t have the financial teeth right now to bite into something as juicy as Hirschi’s new asking price.
Dare I say Ineos Grenadiers? If it’s true that Dave Brailsford is fully committed to a new style of all-offense racing, Hirschi would be just the piece that the team needs to fill out the puzzle. Brailsford’s boys have had their luck in the Ardennes classics, but never truly been a factor during the team’s GC heyday. The team has the financial heft to bring him on, and with the dismantling of “Fortress Froome,” Hirschi could fit right into a new aggressive approach to racing that the team promises going in 2021.
Jim: Is it too obvious to say Deceuninck-Quick-Step? Because I could definitely see Hirschi slotting in nicely at the “wolfpack” and its offensive racing strategy. However, I imagine Julian Alaphilippe would be having a few stern words with team boss Patrick Lefevere if he went and signed Hirschi.
As a less obvious take, I’d like to see Hirschi with a team like Qhubeka Assos; a true underdog team.
For me, one of the reasons why Sunweb was one of the teams of the Tour de France last year was because it went into the race low down on everyone’s watchlist, and lit up the racing with its own brand of controlled chaos. So having Hirschi add firepower to a team that may otherwise be scrapping for leftovers could add some extra fizz to racing next year. If Hirschi were to score some big results for “Africa’s Team,” it would make for a nice good news story, too.