He’s back. Four months after his spectacular victory in la Flèche Wallonne and second place in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates) finally began his season at the Volta a Catalunya on Monday.
The 22-year-old was due to start at the UAE Tour, nearly a month ago, he told Cyclingnews and other reporters before stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya. Despite the delay, he said, “the critical thing is that the Ardennes campaign is not in danger.”
Hirschi admitted that he was a little nervous before making his season debut, but he was convinced that he would be able to use the Volta a Catalunya, a race he has never done before, as a good test ground for his current form.
On the day, Hirschi finished 23rd, safely in the main peloton behind the group of four breakaway riders led home by Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal). His teammate Rui Costa, though, had to abandon after crashing with Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Pieter Serry, who also quit the race.
“I was behind with my training plan as I had to have a wisdom tooth out and had problems with my hip,” Hirschi told reporters at the Volta a Catalunya, “so we decided it was better to start in a good way and start later.
“I have spent a lot of time on Gran Canaria, I just came back from two weeks training in Teide so that was a good buid-up. Catalunya is the first race for me to test my form, but the big goal is the Ardennes Classics.”
Hirschi will certainly have a clear indication of where his form is, he said, given the high-quality level of racers in the Volta a Catalunya this year. “It’s a real good line-up here, and a super-hard race, so it’s a good place to start,” he argued.
“Both the time trial [on stage 2] and the mountains will be good tests, although I haven’t tested myself a lot yet on the time trials. I’ll take it on the day by day because I don’t want too much pressure.”
Hirschi’s abrupt transfer to UAE over the winter has been the subject of much speculation, with Swiss daily Blick interviewing him over the question this weekend.
“Sport is an entertainment business, there is a lot of talking and writing,” he told Blick.
Asked directly how much the reported hike in the value of his contract had influenced his team switch, Hirschi insisted it had not at all.
“I wanted a change of scenery, I was looking for a sporting challenge. UAE were the third best team [in the UCI rankings] last year, many different riders [on the team] took wins, the young riders did very well. That appealed to me, “ he said to the paper.
“At the same time, the science and nutrition team is extremely advanced and in the long term, this change will allow me to progress more.”
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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