The Generation Next series is a review of the next big things in cycling. These are the heirs apparent to the throne of the current kings of cycling. Through these articles we will see some on the cusp of greatness, some up and comers and finally some who will be stars in a very specific role. Look for the members of Generation Next to dominate pro cycling for years to come.
Must be 25 or Younger at the start of the 2020 season.
Must be only one from each world nation.
Must have at least one big name race win to their name.
A Punchers chance
In cycling there are many different types of riders, from Climbers to Sprinters, Bardeours to Classics specialists, most fit into a niche. Some however do not fit any category in particular and these are known as Punchers. The Punchers animate the race, they make cycling exciting and they turn it into must watch TV.
Marc Hirschi is the man of the future; he has shown just how exciting he can be since the season restart and if he builds on this platform then the skies the limit for him. Coming from Switzerland, he has big shoes to fill as the latest man trying to become the next Fabian Cancellara, however I would argue he is better off becoming the first Marc Hirschi.
Cancellara is one of the most successful cyclists in the history of cycling, specifically as a one-day stage racer. Hirschi has a Swiss legacy to hold up however he will be trying to do something that even the almighty Spartacus could not do, win a Grand Tour. For a quick comparison here, Marc Hirschi has competed in one Grand Tour for a sprinters team and finished 54th overall. Cancellara had his highest ever finish at the big three in 2008 when he managed 64th at the Tour de France.
Swiss army man
Marc Hirschi can do it all and he showed this at the resumption of the season. He outmanoeuvred the breakaway on stage of the 2020 Tour de France to take his first grand tour stage victory. He was one crash away from a second stage too. At the same race he won the Combativity award which is awarded to the racer who most animates the race.
Looking at the one-day season, he outclimbed some world class competition to take the La Fleche Wallonne classic and was a deviated sprinting line away from victory at the Monument Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Hirschi in his second year on the professional tour is already showing he is the man to beat.
He also recently took third place and Bronze medal at the World Championships to add to his U23s Gold medal in 2018.
He has shown he can do it all, and with Sunweb seemingly moving away from being a specialist Sprinters with the departure of Michael Matthews and looking void of a leader with Wilco Kelderman changing teams next year, Hirschi has his chance to cement his place as the GC contender for Team Sunweb.
Descending to the top
Hirschi has a lot going for him, he is young, he is a winner, and he has a supportive team, however, so do many others in cycling. What then sets him apart from his peers? His descending. There are not many people who can rival Hirschi down the hills, and this will be his big opportunity to win a grand tour.
It is the done thing to attack on the climbs, every Tour, Giro and Vuelta is decided in the climbs, and except for very unique situations, the race is usually won and lost in the mountains. Descending does not get the respect it deserves; you can ask Steve Cummings to vouch for this. He historically came out of absolutely nowhere to take Stage 7 of the 2016 edition of the Tour de France on a descent and this will be Hirschi’s greatest advantage.
No one descends like Marc Hirschi, he absolutely flies down the hills playing into the risk/reward scenario that presents itself. If he gets it wrong, he crashes and can easily lose time on his rivals, but when he gets its right, he is untouchable. Marc Hirschi, if he wins a grand a grand tour, will win it riding down rather than riding up.
What is next for Marc Hirschi?
He will take over the leadership of Team Sunweb and he will find himself at a crossroads of whether to go after the one-day races or to go after the grand tours. He will be the biggest Swiss rider since Fabian Cancellara and will find himself becoming world champion too.
It is a massive prediction here, however with the right team, domestiques and a little bit of luck, Marc Hirschi can and will break records. By 2024 Hirschi will have won the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships, National Championships and a Grand Tour, to add to his Classics and his Monument victories.