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Cancellara: Hirschi could win Liège, Amstel or Il Lombardia

Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi takes the applause after winning stage 12 of the 2020 Tour de France
Sunweb’s Marc Hirschi takes the applause after winning stage 12 of the 2020 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Former pro rider Fabian Cancellara says that he believes that Sunweb's Marc Hirschi has the ability to win races like Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Amstel Gold and Il Lombardia. Following the 22-year-old Swiss rider's solo victory on stage 12 of the Tour de France in Sarran on Thursday, compatriot Cancellara added that Hirschi's life "will change completely" now that he's joined the exclusive club of Tour stage winners.

"He reminds me a bit of Julian Alaphilippe [Deceuninck-QuickStep]," Cancellara said, according to Het Nieuwsblad on Thursday. "But first and foremost, he's Marc Hirschi, who now has the potential to win races such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Amstel Gold Race, Il Lombardia and the World Championships.

"But he's not yet Tadej Pogacar [UAE Team Emirates] or Egan Bernal [Ineos Grenadiers]. He's lucky that he's not overweight. Maybe he can aim for the Vuelta a España or the Giro d'Italia in the long term. And – who knows? – maybe the Tour.

"I'm practically his manager and advisor," said Cancellara, who lives 300 metres away from Hirschi and his family in Ittigen in Switzerland. "I haven't called him yet, but when I get Marc on the phone, I'll tell him that his life will now change completely.

"He'll have to take that on board," added Cancellara. "He still lives at home with his parents, and tomorrow his mother will go to the bakery, and she'll be viewed differently. His brother goes to school, and he also gets lots of questions, and his friends will, too. I've been through it all. Don't forget that the boy is only 22, and because of that fantastic victory, he's suddenly known all over the world. That does something to a person, you know? I'm trying to help him."

Following his second place behind Alaphilippe on stage 2 of the Tour in Nice, and then third place behind Pogacar and current race leader Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) on stage 9 to Laruns, after a long, lone breakaway that was only caught with under two kilometres to go, Hirschi's stage victory somehow seemed almost inevitable. His smooth pedalling style, superior descending skills and aerodynamic tuck, using his bike computer as makeshift handlebar extensions, has already earned the 2018 under-23 road race world champion legions of new fans, and many – not just Cancellara – now believe that the young rider could go far.

"At the beginning of this year, he had a problem with his hip," added Cancellara, "but the coronavirus shutdown of racing gave him the time he needed to get fit again.

"He pays real attention to every detail: positioning, aerodynamics, nutrition and training," he said. "Marc is also eager to win. He told me he would like to take a WorldTour race this season, and where better to win than on a stage of the Tour de France?"