Team Sunweb continue their winning streak with a Tour de France stage win
From before lockdown with magnificent performances in Australia and Paris-Nice, to great shows at Milano Sanremo, Bretagne Classic and the early stages of the Tour de France, Team Sunweb put the icing on top of the cake yesterday with an incredible stage victory for debutant Marc Hirschi on stage twelve of the Tour de France.
As the bunch rolled out for the longest stage of the race, it was expected that the stage would be one for the breakaway. As expected, a plethora of attacks flew from the bunch at the start of the day, with the team rotating turns and being incredibly active to follow any dangerous looking move.
However, on a narrow bit of road a four rider group went clear before another duo bridged the gap to form a six rider group out front. With all Team Sunweb riders in the bunch, focus switched to the hilly finale and a plan was hatched.
With opposition teams keeping the breakaway close, the race was all back together as it headed into the final 40 kilometres of the stage and it was at that point that Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen launched a two-up attack, very reminiscent of the team’s success in Paris-Nice earlier in the year.
Behind, Marc Hirschi was once again sprightly and attentive, following a dangerous move from Jungels. Kragh Andersen and Benoot sat up before Hirschi attacked and dropped Jungels, bridging to his teammates ahead.
The Team Sunweb trio made up half of the six rider group at the head of the race, with Benoot and Kragh
Andersen selflessly riding on the front on the lower slopes of the last climb to increase that gap to the chasers as much as possible.
After Soler made a probing move from the group, Hirschi immediately countered, showing a clean pair of heels and immediately getting a gap. With inspiration from the car behind, Hirschi dug deep and carried on over the steep gradients, cresting the climb with 25 kilometres to go with a 17 second lead to the two chasers.
Undeterred, Hirschi utilised his incredible descending skills to further increase his lead, while the two chasing groups behind merged. Kragh Andersen was in there for the team, where he was joined by Nicholas Roche, with both riders doing a fantastic teammate’s job of policing the move and disrupting any chase.
Out front, Hirschi just kept riding to his own rhythm and with the gap stabilising at around 40 seconds with just five kilometres to go, he and the team were destined for stage success. Entering the final few hundred metres with a smile from cheek-to-cheek, Hirschi raised his arms aloft in celebration to take a truly remarkable team win.
Behind, Kragh Andersen won the sprint for third place, fist bumping as he crossed the line, with Roche bouncing back from his injuries to take a strong tenth place – rounding out what was a spectacular team display.
“The plan for today was to go for the breakaway, we really wanted to be there,” smiled a jubilant Hirschi after the stage.
“At the start we saw that CCC and Bora really controlled the race so we switched our tactics. Then we decided that Søren and Tiesj would go on the Category-3 climb and I would wait until the next climb.
“It was the plan that I followed Alaphilippe or the other big guys. Then at a moment I saw there was a lot more jumping from the bunch and just went for it and followed Jungels.
“The guys sat up ahead and brought me to the front and then the gap opened and we went full gas, before I then attacked on the last climb.
“I’m happy that I had the confidence to go there, because without the last few stages where we were so close to the win, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go for it today. I just went all out. I didn’t believe I would make it until the last kilometre; it is a dream come true.”
A thrilled Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston added: “It was a really good performance today by the whole team and everyone fully committed to the plan for the finale.
“It was great to see them ride with so much confidence in each other. We wanted to make it hard on the third category climb, where Søren and Tiesj a brilliant job after some great position by our sprint guys, where they put them into a position where they could attack.
“Marc then followed across and we had three guys in a group of six. We knew it would be tough on the second category climb so Marc made his move there. Nico and Søren were in a group of chasers and they did a fantastic job of just blocking behind, not letting anyone else jump across to Marc, and Marc was able to solo to the finish.
“It was a super team effort. After all our hard work in the stages before, it is really nice victory.”