Marc Hirschi sets target on Tokyo Olympics – but admits he will be marked

The Swiss admits that he will be a marked rider in 2021

One of 2020’s breakthrough riders, Marc Hirschi has said that the Toyko Olympics will be his main focus next season.

The Swiss was a relative unknown 12 months ago, but post-lockdown he emerged as one of the sport’s brightest stars, with a racing ability that looks set to pit him as one Julian Alaphilippe’s principal rivals in the forthcoming year.

He was one of the best performers at the Tour de France, winning on stage 12 and coming close in another two stages, before going on to win La Flèche Wallonne and finishing third in the World Championships road race.

Still only 22, the Sunweb rider fancies his chances in the Olympics road race and will be aiming to emulate the success of his compatriot and team manager Fabian Cancellara, the Swiss legend having won two golds at the Olympics, albeit in the time trials.

Asked by Sporza to choose one race to win in 2021, Hirschi said: “I will go for the Games – a chance that you only get every four years.

“And maybe this is the only course that suits me. The road race in Tokyo will be my biggest race next year.”

If it were not for the coronavirus pandemic delaying the Games by a year, Hirschi likely would not have started the road race as one of the favourites, as he will do next summer.

He is now a known and marked man, and has his sights on more victories. “Next year I want to do a Grand Tour, but I don’t yet what stage race that will be. The Giro route has not yet been released,” he added.

“The Classics will, of course, be a goal. I will certainly ride the Ardennes Classics, but there’s not yet been a decision about the Flemish races.”

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Can he live up to the expectation? “Can I match last season next year? Even if I reach the same level, it will difficult. I will be looked at more.

“I am still young and I am motivated to reach the level of 2020 again. I look forward to it with a positive attitude.

“2020 was a special and short season. It will be difficult to do better. I hope to perform consistently in a normal, traditional season, then I’ll see where I end up.”