The 85th Tour de Suisse ends for the men today with an individual time trial in Vaduz. The women will start their second of four stages. And the Tour organisation is looking to the future with confidence after a rollercoaster of emotions.
“We’ve been living on a roller coaster for ten days – and we’re staying chipper”. Tour director Olivier Senn says the sentence about the emotional situation before the start of today’s women’s and men’s time trial with a smile. Behind the metaphor are ten days of hard work for riders, teams and the entire Tour organisation, accompanied by feelings of all kinds.
On the “joy and fun” side of the scale of emotions, the sport and the atmosphere at the stage locations balance each other out. The Frenchman Thibaut Pinot triumphed at the finish of the seventh stage yesterday in Malbun. He had mastered the final climb best and arrived in Malbun ahead of Óscar Rodriguez and the Kazakh Alexey Lutsenko. Behind them, the fight for the overall classification is getting more and more exciting. With a dry attack, Sergio Higuita – full name Sergio Andrés Higuita García – secured the golden jersey. Geraint Thomas and the previous leader Jakob Fuglsang were left behind. Fuglsang had inherited the leader’s jersey the previous day from Russian Aleksandr Vlasov, who had left the Tour the morning after winning a stage in the Ticino heat. Before that, Stephen Williams, who like Geraint Thomas comes from Wales, had spent the first four Tour days in yellow. In short, the most demanding Tour de Suisse for many years inspired the riders to a cycling festival of the highest order.
A cycling festival from place to place
The audience at the stage locations and along the route owes nothing to the riders. “Since the start in Küsnacht, we have experienced a continuous cycling festival,” says Olivier Senn happily. The popularity of the Tour de Suisse is also shown by the figures from the digital media: around 400,000 people have generated 2.5 million page views on the website in the last ten days; sixty percent of the visits come from Switzerland. The online audience appreciates the multilingual live coverage and triggers lively interaction on social channels. On television, the market share on SRF 2 during the live broadcast is around 30 per cent. This means that around 107,000 viewers followed the launch phase.
The half-time Covid shock
In the “crisis and stress” spectrum, the outbreak of a covid wave in the peloton is at the top of the list. On Friday morning, besides leader Alexandr Vlasov, three complete teams had to leave the Tour after positive Covid tests. One team had already stayed away from the start the day before… Olivier Senn: “After a careful clarification of all the facts and in dialogue with all those involved, we decided on Friday morning to continue the race with the remaining 18 teams. We were prepared to hold another crisis meeting with the UCI and the team and rider representatives on Saturday and, in the worst case, to cancel the Tour. The further course of events showed that this was not necessary. Our protection concept worked and thanks to the discipline of everyone involved, we were able to keep the situation under control after the infected people had left.”
With the Covid outbreak at the current Tour, the young Tour sponsorship around the two cycling resort entrepreneurs Olivier Senn and Joko Vogel has passed another test of endurance. The company Cycling Unlimited AG, in which the association Swiss Cycling and the value marketer Infront also hold shares, has taken over the helm after the conclusion of the 83rd Tour de Suisse in summer 2019. Instead of the premiere in the new structure, the cancellation followed in 2020. The 2021 edition took place under massive pandemic restrictions with horrendous accompanying costs. “Without the federal government’s aid package, we would not have survived this crisis,” Olivier Senn states bluntly. “But this financial support alone is not the reason that we exist today and can experience an inspiring Tour de Suisse. Rather, it has shown that our overall construct is more robust than we could have dreamed. The basic idea of Cycling Unlimited is to create a resilient platform for amateur and professional racing cycling together with Swiss Cycling. For three years now, we have had the experience that the idea works even in adverse times. That makes us confident for the future.”
Shorter transport routes, fewer emissions
The future of the Tour de Suisse for the next five years is also already clearly outlined on the national map. “Several important contracts with stage locations until 2027 have been signed. We are sticking to the concept with the hubs at the start and finish weekends. We are also looking forward to coming back to Suisse romande soon.” That will already be the case next year in Villars-sur-Ollon (VD). In addition to the sporting development, the tour management also pays attention to the general conditions. This year, for example, the catering at each stage location was designed with local partners. “This decentralised approach instead of a centralised solution means a noticeable extra burden for our entire organisation. But the short delivery routes and the local anchoring are, just like the trend towards emission-free vehicles, part of our efforts on the way to more sustainability at a major event. On this learning and shaping path, we are also happy to accept additional hardships,” says Senn.
Men’s final, women’s tour
How the roller-coaster ride of the 85th Tour de Suisse will end will be revealed in two stages. First, the men will end their tour today in Vaduz with an individual time trial. There, Swiss-Liechtenstein dual citizen Stefan Küng, in seventh place overall, 2 minutes and 19 seconds behind leader Sergio Higuita, will be lurking as an expert to battle the clock. In parallel, the women take the reins and will finish their second Tour de Suisse on Tuesday evening in Lenzerheide. A cocktail of tension, mood and confidence. “We like to leave the crises and stress aside at the end,” says Olivier Senn with a twinkle in his eye.
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Tour de Suisse Media Service: Ueli Anken | +41 79 638 18 18 | [email protected]