Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 September 2020

Team Sunweb's Marc Hirschi seals first victory on Tour de France debut

Swiss rider had twice been on the podium in the opening week of the race

Marc Hirschi made it third time lucky as he claimed his maiden Tour de France stage victory in Sarran Correze.

The Swiss rider, making his debut Tour at the age of 22, had twice been on the podium in the opening week of the race after seeing attacking efforts fall short, but delivered for Team Sunweb on Stage 12 as he broke clear on the climb of the Suc au May before soloing to victory.

Julian Alaphilippe, who pipped Hirschi to the line on stage two in Nice, was part of a large chase group on the descent to the finish, but a lack of organisation prevented them from closing him down before a mechanical issue ended Alaphilippe's own challenge.

The main group of contenders were content to ride in together to ensure there was no change at the top of the general classification, in which Jumbo-Visma's Primoz Roglic leads by 21 seconds from defending champion Egan Bernal of the Ineos Grenadiers.

Irishman Sam Bennett used the day's intermediate sprint to slightly stretch his advantage over Peter Sagan in the points classification, but the former world champion led in the peloton to pick up the scraps at the finish line, cutting his deficit in the battle for green to 66 points.

The lumpy 218km stage from Chauvigny was the longest of the entire Tour, before a return to the mountains on Friday.

It was a fine tactical victory for Sunweb who got three riders in the late moves and could use Soren Kragh Andersen and Nicolas Roche to shut down any counter-attacks, allowing Hirschi to deliver his first professional win of any kind in some style.

"It's unbelievable," Hirschi said. "Two times I was really close so actually today I never believed I could make it. I can't describe it, it's hard to find the words.

"I had the picture in my mind from the last two stages when I was close. Then in the last three kilometres I believed I could make it. It's my first pro victory and it's in the Tour so it couldn't be better."

UAE Team Emirates' Tadej Pogacar remains in seventh place, 44 seconds behind leader Roglic.

Meanwhile, Tour organisers have performed a U-turn to remove the danger of expulsion for tour teams who had been on a knife edge after positive Covid-19 tests.

Another test for Ineos Grenadiers, AG2R-La Mondiale, Mitchelton-Scott or Cofidis will not mean that they will be ejected from the race if they have another one in the next round of tests, two sources told Reuters.

The rules state that should two members of a team test positive for coronavirus within a seven-day period, the whole outfit will be excluded from the race.

Organisers, in consultation with the French government, have decided, however, that the counters would be reset for the next round of tests on September 13-14.

"We are resetting the counters for the next round of tests. However, if before those tests one of the four teams has another positive then they will be out," one of the sources told Reuters.

Updated: September 10, 2020 08:12 PM

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