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Hirschi: As soon as a rider succeeds, people think doping is behind it

CALELLA SPAIN MARCH 22 Start Podium Marc Hirschi of Switzerland and UAE Team Emirates during the 100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021 Stage 1 a 1784km stage from Calella to Calella Mask Covid safety measures Team Presentation VoltaCatalunya100 on March 22 2021 in Calella Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) (Image credit: Getty Images)

A non-disclosure agreement means that Marc Hirschi remains unable to discuss his departure from Team DSM for UAE Team Emirates in detail but the Swiss rider has told L’Équipe that he is “learning to live” with the suspicions aroused by the sudden nature of his transfer.

In early January, Team DSM announced that they had terminated Hirschi’s contract with immediate effect. Four days later, UAE Team Emirates confirmed that they had signed Hirschi, who won Flèche Wallonne and a stage of the Tour de France during a breakthrough rescheduled 2020 season.

Hirschi has made a belated UAE Team Emirates debut this week at the Volta a Catalunya, having missed previously planned starts at the UAE Tour and the Boucles Drôme Ardèche. At the start in Calella on Monday, Hirschi revealed that his debut had been delayed by a wisdom tooth extraction and a hip issue.

“In cycling, there’s nothing you can do. As soon as a rider succeeds, people think doping is behind it. I’m learning to live with that. I’m trying to accept that there will always be critics,” Hirschi told L’Équipe of speculation about his abrupt departure from DSM.

“It’s the same for other riders, like Tadej [Pogačar]. To keep that at bay, I’m working with a mental coach who doesn’t have anything to do with cycling, who helps me to get away from that stress. I’ve been working with him for a few seasons, it’s a bit of an experimental collaboration. He’s become a friend and I call him in the moments when I think I need it.”

Hirschi said that he was drawn to UAE Team Emirates by the Swiss influence in the team’s management, as well as by the presence of riders he had competed against as a junior.

“I made the right decision, and my new team will help me progress. I’m joining Tadej, Brandon and Mikkel: together, we were among the ten best juniors. They all turned professional with UAE [McNulty turned professional with Rally – ed.] and have progressed a lot. The manager, Mauro Gianetti, is Swiss. My directeur sportif Fabrizio Guidi lives in Ittigen [Hirschi’s hometown – ed.] I’m not going into the unknown.”

Hirschi explained that his absence from the UAE Tour was in part due to a longstanding hip problem – caused by having one leg longer than the other – that had been exacerbated by changing his bike and shoes during the off-season.

“My training wasn’t efficient and then, just before going to train at altitude, I had two wisdom teeth removed,” Hirschi said. “We preferred to delay the start to my season because the team wanted to win in the Emirates, and I didn’t want to be a burden.”

Hirschi placed 23rd on the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya, which continues with an individual time trial on Tuesday. The 22-year-old is set to race Itzulia Basque Country after the Volta a Catalunya in preparation for the centre-piece of his Spring, the Ardennes Classics.

“My objective is the Classics and the team is going to put itself at my service on those races, then I’ll work for Tadej on the Tour,” Hirschi said. 

“If I’d had Tadej as a teammate at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year, for example, that would have been a big advantage for us.”