Persistance paid off for Marc Hirschi as the Swiss soloed to victory on stage 12 of the Tour de France on Thursday, putting in the back of him two gut-wrenching close misses. There used to be no change in the overall standings a day ahead of a massive mountain slog, with Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic staying 21 seconds ahead of defending champion, Colombian Egan Bernal of Ineos. The 22-year-old Hirschi used to be first pipped at the line by flying Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe on Nice’s iconic Promenade des Anglais on stage two. He then suffered another blow when the Slovenian twosome Tadej Pogacar and Roglic caught him at Laruns at the end of Sunday’s stage nine.
The Sunweb man after all found the correct formula with a heroic long-range solo victory on the Tour’s longest stage of 218km from the chateau-dominated town of Chauvigny over four rolling hills to Sarran in central France’s pastoral heartland.
“I haven’t been sleeping polite and I had a poor back but I said to myself just go for it,” said the bearded escape artist.
“I never would have believed it and even in the last kilometre I still didn’t allow myself to hope,” said the 2018 under-21’s world street race champion.
“I used to be so near twice. And on Sunday I got caught 1.6km from the line. But there used to be sadness because I missing the sprints twice. It used to be tactics that let me down,” he said.
Hirschi used to be provided a late scare again by Alaphilippe but the Frenchman quickly deserted his late pursuit.
“He deserved his win, I’m glad for him, I just didn’t have the legs. He used to be too strong,” Alaphilippe said at the line.
The Tour goes climbing on Friday seven ascents culminating with 1,783m up the extinct volcano of Puy Mary in the Massif Central.
“Our team needs a win,” Bernal said.
“The last 2km are in point of fact steep and there will be time differences for certain, so we want to get there with fresh legs.”
Volcano stage threatens to errupt
Leader Roglic offered a deadpan analysis.
“The Puy Mary looks very difficult, so it’s going to be a great challenge,” he said.
The Puy Mary is a 15km climb to a summit finish with gradients of 9 percen.
“We are expecting a major battle from our rivals up there, but we are just planning to race our own race,” said the 30-year-old who won the Vuelta Espana final year.
Bernal appeared a little washed out Thursday but suggested he used to be having a look forwards to measuring himself against the leader.
“There have been some rather stressful days trying to steer clear of falls, in the wind and the sprints,” said the man who cut his own hair to comedian effect on Monday, ending up with a mohican style.
“I’m having a look forwards to the mountains now. I feel a bit stronger on a daily basis,” said the rather built Bernal,” who snatched the yellow jersey on stage 19 in 2019 Tour de France.
Hardy fans will be welcome to climb Puy Mary on foot, but no vehicles will be allowed on the slopes.
Thursday’s stage used to be held in the presence of one former president, Francois Hollande, who hails from the verdant Correze region, and payed homage to another, Jacques Chirac, who recently died, who came from the arrival town Sarran.
The Tour also remembered one of its favourite sons Raymond Poulidor, who never won the race or wore its yellow jersey, but became a national hero for coming second or third eight times.
There used to be heartening news for the four teams cowering beneath the dangling Sword of Damocles last round of Covid tests to be held next Monday.
The original ruling of two strikes and you’re out has been adjusted, so only teams returning two more positive tests will be excluded. Ineos, FDJ, Mitchelton-Scott and CCC all had one positive among their staff final Monday.
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