Marc Hirschi was one of the stars of last summer. Will he shine as bright this spring?
Time will tell.
The Swiss sensation flooded headlines last summer after he clocked up victories and harvested podium placings at the Tour de France and Ardennes classics. So far this year, Hirschi has only made news for speculation about his mega-money, multi-year deal with UAE-Team Emirates, the silence over his shift from Team Sunwb (now DSM), and questions about Ketones.
In the space of just eight months, Hirschi transitioned from megastar to mystery man. With a highly anticipated start at Amstel Gold Race on tap for this weekend, and a title-defense at La Flèche Wallone next week, now is the time for Hirschi to let his legs do the talking – or not, as the situation may seem.
After a delayed start to his season due to nagging injuries and imbalances, the 22-year-old kept his powder drier than dry in his races to date, and his form for the upcoming Ardennes races remains an unknown. The Marc Hirschi mysteries only seem to deepen.
“This winter I was unable to train properly due to problems with my right hip,” Hirschi told l’Equipe last month. “Last year, I even thought about having an operation … As I changed my bike and shoes in the off-season, I had to adapt my position very precisely and at first I didn’t feel well. My workouts weren’t effective and then, just before going to altitude, I had to have two wisdom teeth removed.”
It’s been a far from ideal start to what was one of the big-news transfers of the off-season.
Much was expected from Hirschi after his high-profile and reportedly high-budget transfer to UAE-Team Emirates from Team Sunweb over this winter, and the Ardennes were where he was expected to deliver. Hirschi was poised to rule the classics, and UAE-Emirates was prepared to give him with its full bench of talent in support.
Fast-forward to the present, and there’s a sense the Emirati outfit may have to wait for its big investment to hit maturity after Hirschi’s subdued showings at the Volta a Catalunya and Izulia Basque Country in the past month.
“He’s getting along well at the team, but he needs time,” said Fabian Cancellara, Hirschi’s long-time confidante and manager. “Every change is a change, and he had teeth problems, different shoes, in a new environment and with new equipment. And he has been sick as well for a few days. These are lots of small things that many outside people don’t have any ideas about.”
Will Hirschi rule the Ardennes in the way he did last fall?
Based on his late start to the season and anonymous performances so far, it seems unlikely that he’ll be enjoying the same harvest when he lines up for his “A-races” of Amstel, Flèche, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the next 10 days.
“It’s not like Tadej, who is already in the team and knows everything and is set up and this and that. He doesn’t need to think, just train and race,” Cancellara told VeloNews. “We do not press Marc. He has to get back on top of all these small things and then he will be back up there again, no worries. It’s just patience that’s all.”
Will Hirschi make good on a reported $1 million contract in the next block of racing or will UAE-Team Emirates have to wait a little longer before it can cash in on its investment? At least one element of the Marc Hirschi mysteries may be solved in the coming weeks.