Marc Hirschi came back for revenge on stage 12 of the Tour de France 2020, pulling off a solo victory after his doomed effort on stage nine.
The 22-year-old Sunweb rider had won over plenty of hearts with his fantastic solo exploits on stage nine in Laruns, which ended in disappointment when he was beaten by Tadej Pogačar at the line.
But stage 12 was finally his moment when Hirschi attacked inside the final 30km of the stage and held off a formidable chase to take the day.
Hirschi, the 2018 under-23 world champion, takes his first professional victory at the Tour de France after just 19 months as a pro.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) comfortably made it through the stage to hold the race lead for another day.
How it happened
Stage 12 of the Tour de France 2020 was the longest day of the race and looked to be a breakaway opportunity on paper, too tough for the sprinters but just not hard enough for the GC contenders.
Running over 218km from Chauvigny to Sarran, the stage gradually climbed throughout the day with four categorised climbs for the peloton to overcome before the finish.
The first climb, the fourth category Côte de Saint-Martin-Terrasus (1.6km at 8.1 per cent) came 100km into the stage and was followed by the Côte d’Eybouleuf (3km at 4.4 per cent) at 120km.
Over the next 50km the road undulated as riders gradually gained altitude before the final two notable climbs of the day, the Côte de la Croix du Pey (6km at 5.1 per cent) at 170km followed by the Suc au May (3.7km at 7.4 per cent).
Then it was a rolling final 10km with a sharp uphill to the line.
Despite the predictions that a breakaway could be allowed to get away, Bora-Hansgrohe had other ideas after the events of the previous day, with Peter Sagan determined to pick up points after being relegated for dangerous sprinting on stage 11.
In the opening 10km of the stage a very strong four-rider breakaway formed and they ground out a 30-second advantage, but surprisingly the bunch weren’t letting them get clear.
Luis León Sánchez (Astana), Max Walscheid (NTT Pro Cycling), Nils Politt (Israel Start-Up Nation and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) made up the move, and finally after around 50km of racing the break had a reasonable advantage, but still not enough to make it to the finish.
Bora-Hansgrohe continued to control the pace in the bunch and they kept the escapees within two minutes and it soon became clear they were riding to keep Peter Sagan within reach of the front of the race, potentially in the hopes of taking the stage.
With around 180km left to race another attack from the bunch came as Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (Total Direct Energie) went clear and bridged across to the break with 150km left to race.
The gap began to tumble from two minutes on the first two climbs of the day, which prompted an attack from Asgreen when the gap fell to under a minute with 50km to race with Ervitia joining the Danish champion at the front of the race.
Behind the break began to fall apart, while in the bunch the pure sprinters, including Sam Bennett (Deceuninck) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), were dropped.
But the two frontrunners were caught thanks to some sharp attacks from the peloton on the Croix du Pey, with Marc Soler (Movistar) making a move and getting clear, soon to be joined by Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen from Sunweb.
A number of riders followed to join up with Soler and the Sunweb duo at the front of the race, with a 40-second advantage over the peloton and 30km left to race.
On the Sac au May, Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) hoped for redemption after his huge disappointment from stage two, and he attacked solo.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck) attacked soon after from the peloton and took a collection of chasers with him.
With 20km left to race, Hirschi was out front alone with Soler and Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) chasing at 40 seconds, the 11-rider Alaphilippe group a minute down and the peloton at two minutes.
Inside 10km the Alaphilippe group had caught Soler and Schachmann and the chase was struggling to make a dent in Hirschi’s gap, which sat at 40 seconds.
While Hirschi may have been doubting himself on the road after two second place finishes in this year’s Tour, he would not be denied and he rode clear to take an emotional solo victory.
Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) rolled in almost a minute later, with Søren Kragh Andersen closing out the podium.
The 2020 Tour de France continues on stage 13 with a brutal 191km climbing day, featuring seven categorised climbs on the road from Châtel-Guyon to Pas de Peyrol, finishing atop the first category Puy Mary.
Tour de France 2020, stage 12: Chauvigny to Sarran (218km)
1. Marc Hirschi (Sui) Sunweb, in 5-08-49
2. Pierre Rolland (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM, at 47s
3. Søren Kragh Andersen (Den) Sunweb, at 52s
4. Quentin Pacher (Fra) B&B Hotels-Vital Concept p/b KTM
5. Jesús Herrada (Esp) Cofidis
6. Maximilian Schachmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Hugo Houle (Can) Astana
8. Sébastien Reichenbach (Sui) Groupama-FDJ, all at same time
9. Kenny Elissonde (Fra) Trek-Segafredo, at 56s
10. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sunweb, at same time
General classification after stage 12
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, in 51-26-46
2. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 21s
3. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 28s
4. Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 30s
5. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic, at 32s
6. Rigoberto Urán (Col) EF Pro Cycling, at same time
7. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 44s
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 1-02
9. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana), at 1-15
10. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-Mclaren, at 1-42
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Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers. Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.
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