Since it was first held in 1933, the Tour de Suisse has been the setting for countless stories. Passion, hope, disappointment, pride, despair and joy – dramas and heroic sagas have been written on the Tour de Suisse route. Some highlights from the past 80 years:
1933: Bulla came, saw and conquered
Max Bulla arrived in Zurich just one hour before the start of the first stage. The Austrian had seized opportunities to start in Antwerp (Be) and Troyes (Fr) before travelling by night train. This did not stop Bulla from making his mark on the first Tour de Suisse in 1933 with two stage victories and a final lead of 9:01 minutes over Albert Büchi. Bulla was one of Austria’s most successful professional cyclists, also winning the Zurich championship in 1931.
1940s: Decider in the Hallenstadion
During the Second World War, the Tour of Switzerland could only be held twice. In 1942, Ferdi Kübler’s star rose and he took over the overall lead from his mentor Paul Egli after the 2nd stage in Bellinzona. The latter received a time penalty for alleged petrol driving. Kübler then safely brought home the overall victory over the remaining three daily stages. In 1941 there were only three stages with 44 professional cyclists competing. After 606 km there was nothing between Sepp Wagner and Werner Buchwalder. A track sprint was to decide the victory. Due to rain and nightfall, the race was moved from the outdoor racecourse in Oerlikon to the Hallenstadion. Winner: Sepp Wagner.
The ‘campionissimi’ Bartali and Coppi
Italian fans were divided into those who followed Gino Bartali and those who followed Fausto Coppi. In 1947, the Swiss franc had enticed the two Italians to this country. Coppi was victorious in the time trial from Lausanne to Geneva (60 km). But in the mountains, Bartali outclassed all opponents.
He celebrated his second overall victory, having already dominated the Tour a year earlier and never relinquished the overall lead.
Coppi competed again in the 1954 Tour de Suisse and once again came fifth.
The duel of the ‚Ks‘
The Tour de Suisse experienced its heyday in the 1950s with the duels between Ferdi Kübler and Hugo Koblet. Three overall victories, one second place, eleven stage wins, 14 days in the gold jersey was the record of the ‘chrampfers’ Kübler and the ‘pédaleurs de charme’ Koblet. The only difference: Kübler started eight times, Koblet only seven. Kübler’s spectacular lead-outs and breakaways were as much a talking point amongst fans as Koblet’s dominance in the time trials.
Pasquale Fornara the Record Holder
As Hugo Koblet’s helper, Pasquale Fornara tackled his third Tour de Suisse in 1952. In the time trial from Monthey to Crans-Montana, the Italian captured the leader’s jersey and robbed Ferdi Kübler of the chance to turn things around on the penultimate day in Arosa. Fornara did the same again in 1954, when both Kübler and Koblet did not participate in the Tour de Suisse. With his further triumphs in 1957 and 1958, Fornara – the rider with the light pedal stroke – became the record winner of the Tour de Suisse.
The ‘Cannibal’ Merckx cleans up
The competition from the World Cup in Germany forced organiser Sepp Voegeli to pull off a coup. For a generous fee, he brought Eddy Merckx into the Tour de Suisse for the first time in 1974. The most successful professional cyclist of all time (525 victories) was not tired just a few days after his fifth overall Giro victory: Leader’s Jersey from the prologue to the finish, three stage victories, winner of the overall KOM and Points Classification and of course the GC. Merckx took part in the Tour of Switzerland again in 1975 (2nd) and 1977 (12th).
Beat Breu and his quotes
Beat Breu enjoyed great popularity thanks to his pithy sayings. In 1981, the mountain man captured the leader’s jersey in the Solothurn – Balmberg mountain time trial. Two days later, however, he had to cede it to his team-mate Godi Schmutz, who misinterpreted a team order: “De Gopfried isch für mich gschtorbe” (He is dead to me). In the mountain time trial from Lugano to Monte Bre, Breu was able to correct the situation. Eight years later, Breu celebrated his second TdS triumph in his eleventh participation: “Winning on Swiss roads can’t be compared to anything else”.
Sepp Voegeli, Mr Tour de Suisse
An outstanding debt of 92,000 Swiss francs, a small bundle of files and a single contract with a stage organiser – with this legacy, Sepp Voegeli took over the Tour de Suisse in 1967. The man from Aargau turned the serpentine circuit into an event that drew the masses back to the roadside and the fans in front of the TV set. In 1991, 25 years after his debut, Voegeli presided over ‘his’ Tour de Suisse for the final time. Less than a year later, he died at the age of 69 as the result of an operation.
Fabian Cancellara – In the footsteps of Kübler and Koblet
After the turn of the millennium, there was no other Swiss rider who left such a mark on the Tour de Suisse as much as Fabian Cancellara. With his last stage victory in 2016, he even managed to catch up with the legendary Kübler and Koblet, joining them in second place with 11 stage victories, behind Peter Sagan. „Spartacus” secured his place in the TdS Hall of Fame in 2009, when he won the overall victory by taking the time trial in the last stage of the Tour de Suisse.
The „new“ Tour de Suisse – a Cycling Festival for everyone
For the 2015 edition, the new organiser of the Tour de Suisse, InfrontRingier Sports & Entertainment AG, made a conceptual change. Initiated by the new TdS General Director Olivier Senn, the start and end weekends were now organised as Hubs. By keeping the Tour at the same location for 2-3 days, it was hoped to increase the appeal of the Tour de Suisse and to create a true cycling festival – a daring approach that was a great success. Since then, in addition to the professional race, the TdS Kids-World, TdS Bike-Expo and TdS-Challenge have ensured that up to 100,000 spectators make the pilgrimage to the Hubs.
Covid-19 Pandemic prompts first Digital Tour de Suisse
Following successful competitions, the euphoria abated in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the Tour de Suisse 2020. The whole world come to a standstill as did cycling. Cycling Unlimited AG, now responsible for organising the event, set up a digital Tour de Suisse – The Digital Swiss 5 – in just a few weeks. It was an innovative and courageous effort. Over five digital stages, pro cyclists from all over the world competed using the virtual reality platform ROUVY. As the only sporting event in the midst of the lockdown, the digital Tour de Suisse was guaranteed to attract attention.
50 years of Women’s suffrage heralds the birth of the Tour de Suisse Women
At the beginning of 2021 Swiss Cycling, the national association, together with various members of parliament and the organisers of the Tour de Suisse, sought to hold the first Tour de Suisse Women. Despite funding challenges, a 96-strong women’s field started the Tour de Suisse Women in Frauenfeld on 5th June 2021. Just one year later, four stages were held instead of two. With the four-day tour staged as a UCI Women’s World Tour race for the first time in 2023, it was a Swiss cyclist who won the overall classification. Switzerland’s leading light in women’s cycling, Marlen Reusser, took the overall victory in Ebnat-Kappel.