Hirschi aiming for stage wins at Tour de Romandie

VALLTER 2000 SETCASES VALL CAMPRODON SPAIN MARCH 24 Marc Hirschi of Switzerland and UAE Team Emirates during the 100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021 Stage 3 a 2031km stage from Canal Olmpic de Catalunya to Vallter 2000 Setcases Vall Camprodon 2125m VoltaCatalunya100 on March 24 2021 in Vallter 2000 Setcases Vall Camprodon Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

After a difficult beginning to his 2021 campaign, Marc Hirschi will head straight from racing Liège-Bastogne-Liège to the Tour de Romandie, along with team leaders Rui Costa and David de la Cruz, in search of stage victories in the five-stage Swiss race.

The winner of the 2020 La Flèche Wallonne missed out on the race after two individuals in his UAE Team Emirates organisation tested positive for COVID-19. Although subsequent tests cleared the team of the virus they were prevented from competing under the strict regulations in Belgium.

Hirschi started his season late after an off-season flurry of activity surrounding his sudden departure from Team DSM for his new team. He lost time due to a hip injury and dental surgery but was hoping to find form after racing Itzulia Basque Country.

It will be the 22-year-old's debut in his home WorldTour stage race.

"I'm excited for the Tour de Romandie: to race at home in Switzerland is always really nice," Hirschi said. "Since I started last month I have had some good racing in my legs now and I'm looking forward to testing myself. If the condition is good I hope to be up challenging for stage wins. We have a really strong team here so I think we can do something good as a group."

UAE Team Emirates for Tour de Romandie: Alessandro Covi , David De La Cruz , Rui Costa , Marc Hirschi , Cristian Muñoz , Maximiliano Richeze , Diego Ulissi.

Izagirre leads Astana-Premier Tech

After taking a podium at Paris-Nice, Ion Izagirre will lead Astana-Premier Tech in the Tour de Romandie. The stage starts with a 4km prologue followed by three possible sprint stages before the queen stage to the Thyon 2000 ski resort and a 16.2km individual time trial in Fribourg to close out the week of racing.

Izagirre won the opening stage of the 2016 edition, led the race for two stages and finished third overall behind Nairo Quintana.

"The Tour de Romandie is a race I really like," Izagirre said. "The six stages of racing, including two time trials, suit me really well. The objective is to do a good result in the General Classification. We have the prologue and the final time trial, and two of the four stages in between are really hard. I hope to do a good race and be on the podium, so we'll see how the race goes day by day."

The team will look to Alexey Lutsenko for stage wins. There are a few punchy days with flat finishes that could result in a breakaway or small bunch sprint, which the Kazakhstan champion excels at. He will head to the race from Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

"We are lining up at Tour de Romandie with a strong leader Ion Izagirre and a motivated team to support him for the general classification," Performance Manager Dmitriy Fofonov said. "Ion has had a great start to the season with third overall at Paris-Nice and then winning a stage at Itzulia Basque Country, so he is coming into Tour de Romandie with good form, after a short break at home. 

"The line-up is always very strong at Tour de Romandie so we will play the cards we have for both the general classification and stage wins, as we also have Alexey Lutsenko who can animate the stages.

"After his crash at Paris-Nice, Alexey has regained his form at the Ardennes and is in good shape for the race. We have a versatile rider roster for all terrain so I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do at the race."

Astana-Premier Tech for Tour de Romandie: Manuele Boaro, Rodrigo Contreras, Gorka Izagirre, Ion Izagirre, Alexey Lutsenko, Davide Martinelli , Javier Romo.

Lucas Hamilton to head up BikeExchange roster

Team BikeExchange heads to Tour de Romandie with aspirations of a top ten overall, and Australian Lucas Hamilton is the rider that team director sportif Julian Dean will count on. Hamilton claimed fourth place overall in Paris-Nice and 10th in the Volta a Catalunya and was second in the best young riders classification in both events this season.

"We are entering Tour de Romandie in a particular part of the season where most of the riders are ending their first intense part of the season and will soon begin their preparation for future key races. We are very motivated, and we will go to Romandie to achieve the best results possible," Dean said.

"We will focus on Lucas Hamilton for the GC, with the aim to at least finish in the top-10 overall. The key day for the GC will be the stage four summit finish, so hopefully Lucas can be in the mix there.

"We also have Dion Smith in good form and he's an option should any of the stages come down to a sprint finish. We have a solid team that is capable of supporting both Lucas and Dion throughout the tour."

Team BikeExchange for the Tour de Romandie: Sam Bewley , Brent Bookwalter , Alexander Edmondson , Tsgabu Grmay , Lucas Hamilton , Damien Howson , Dion Smith.

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