Jan Hirt confirmed his great climbing abilities by finishing 7th on the „queen stage” of Tour de Suisse. The orange colors were visible not only in the finale, but throughout the entire stage, thanks to a great ride in the breakaway of the day, by Stefan Schumacher .
I was not the leader of the team for today’s stage and I hadn’t expected that I can perform so well on such a hard stage. I was supposed to help my teammates, but I felt strong on the last climb and I’m happy that I was able to take advantage of that – Jan Hirt said afterwards. – It’s definitely the biggest success of my career. Tour de Suisse is one of the most prestigious events in the world of cycling and finishing in the top 10 is something I can be proud of. You can’t compare today’s result with my other victories and podium spots, since they were achieved in 2.1 or 2.2 races and here we are competing against best riders. What makes it even more special is the fact that I was able to deliver this result on the longest and hardest stage – not only of the race, but also the hardest of my life.
I felt normal on the first HC category climb, so at that point I didn’t know that I can stay with the strongest so long. It turned out that I lost contact with them only 2 kilometers from the finish line.
Jan Hirt is 24 years old. When he was a junior he won the Nations Cup race GP Général Patton. As a U23 rider he conquered the youth classification of Okolo Slovenska and the stage at Tour d’Azerbaijan. He was also 2nd overall in Peace Race U23, 2nd in youth classification of Volta a Portugal em Bicicleta Liberty Seguros, 4th in Tour Alsace and 7th in 42nd Settimana Ciclistica Lombarda by Bergamasca (3rd in youth classification). In 2014 he won a stage in Czech Cycling Tour.
How the stage from Unterterzen to Rettenbachgletscher (237,5km) unfolded
Stefan Schumacher managed to get in the escape which consisted of eight riders. The German was riding in the front alongside Przemysław Niemiec, Gregory Rast, Stefan Denifl, Matthias Brändle, Benjamin King and Thomas de Gendt. Due to long distance and very demanding finale on the ascent towards Rettenbachgletscher, the peloton let the escapees gain quite big advantage.
At the top of the first cat. HC climb at Bielerhöhe, the gap was at 7:45. It continued to grow and later it reached almost 10 minutes. This is when the GC-oriented teams started the chase.
The break hit the foot of the final, 14-kilometer slope with over 4-minute lead. At the beginning of the climb Denifl pushed the pace. Schumacher was not able to keep up with the Austrian and fell back. Eventually he got caught with 7 kilometers to go.
He was reeled in by a small group with the favorites, in which Jan Hirt was present. Czech rider was riding a race of his life and survived big selection. He stayed with the best climbers in the peloton, while cyclists such as Rafał Majka, Robert Gesink or Tour of Turkey and Stage 2 winner, Kristijan Durasek were falling behind.
CCC Sprandi Polkowice rider got dropped from a 5-man leading group when it was only 3 kilometers to the top and Pinot decided to attack. The Frenchman caught Denifl and soloed to victory. Domenico Pozzovivo took 2nd and Simon Spilak 3rd. Jan Hirt reached the summit in 7th place, only 1:18 back.
Sylwester Szmyd came in in 30th (6:35) and Davide Rebellin in 44th place (11:19). The Italian is still the highest ranked “rider in orange” in general classifications – he sits in 28th place, 12:43 behind the new leader Pinot. Jan Hirt is 34th overall (18:49).