Backstage – Georges Lüchinger has been a Tour de Suisse speaker since 1991 and ensures top service at the stage locations with his mix of information and entertainment.
Nobody brings the audience around the finish area better to race temperature than Georges Lüchinger. The Liechtenstein native is not “The Voice” of the Swiss National Tour for nothing. “A world-class event with a great team,” he quickly sums up the Tour de Suisse and his tasks. For Georges Lüchinger, the Tour de Suisse adventure began in a loudspeaker car. “Back then I was head of sports at St. Gallen Radio Aktuell,” he remembers. “A radio colleague had been scheduled for the PA truck and fell ill. I jumped in.” A few years later, he succeeded the legendary Tour Speaker Heinz Meister, who had accompanied the Swiss National Tour for 32 years.
From the team presentation on Friday before the start of the tour to the final showdown, Georges Lüchinger will be on the TdS show stage for ten days. Every day, he first moderates the driver registration at the start location, in order to prepare the fans for the arrival later at the stage destination. “The only hectic rush is on the car kilometres in between,” laughs Lüchinger. But when a stage ends in French- or Italian-speaking Switzerland, the specially hired Stefano Bertolotti (speaker of the Giro) and Gilles Pinard (speaker of the Tour de Romandie) take the lead. Lüchinger then steps into the second tier and informs the German-speaking audience present. “That’s right. At the stage locations, the audience should be addressed in their native language.”
He has an anecdote up his sleeve for every racer, and he keeps himself informed about the course of the race by radio tour. He informs, animates and cheers up the cycling fans. Of course, it helps that he is always on the road at different races of the WorldTour for the BMC Racing Team as media representative (Chief Communication Officer). “At the world’s racetracks I always get into personal contact with drivers,” explains Lüchinger. “So every now and then I get to hear some story worth telling.”
Long gone are the days as head of sports at the local Radio Aktuell (today FM1). Since 1994 Georges Lüchinger has been running his own agency for moderation and communication. “I felt that event organizers needed to be more professional in their communications.” For example, Georges Lüchinger has long been a speaker for events at the Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament and other major sports and entertainment events. His step into self-employment was worthwhile. Georges Lüchinger is responsible for both the moderation of the Tour de Suisse as well as for the BMC Racing Team on a mandate basis. “For the BMC Racing Team, I race about 110 days a year. The highlight is always the Tour de France.”
20% planning – 80% spontaneity
As soon as the racing teams announce their drivers, Georges Lüchinger’s preparations begin. But this year he will miss a driver. Fabian Cancellara. For him as a speaker his presence was an important show element and great experience in the past years. “As soon as Fabian appeared somewhere, he always brought the mood of the audience to a boil. A Swiss rider with charisma, like Fäbu, is infinitely important for the Tour de Suisse.” Among the foreign riders Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) is one of his favourites. “To me he’s a hard worker on a bicycle who never gives up. An honest sportsman.”
In the weeks before the Tour de Suisse, Lüchinger meticulously collects material, follows other races, plans the timing of the start and finish moderations, filters service information and gags. In spite of all planning, he must be able to rely on his spontaneity. “20% you can prepare – but at 80% you must react spontaneously.” His long experience is a big plus.
Unusual locations appeal to the speaker. For example, he was fascinated by the start of the Swiss National Tour in 2001 with a prologue time trial at Europapark Rust (D). But he also remembered the mountain arrival on the Grimsel Pass in 2007. “At zero degrees Celsius we almost froze at the top of the pass, even though the great ride of Beat Zberg as stage fifth still warmed our hearts a bit.
Moreover, it is a true gift for a speaker if the overall victory remains exciting until the very last moment. This is what happened at the Tour de Suisse 2004 in Lugano. Up to the final time trial over 25.6 km, Swiss rider Fabian Jeker led with 41 seconds ahead of German Jan Ullrich. However, Ullrich caught up second by second in the time trial. Jeker reared up, but was relegated to second place in the final 300 meters. As bitter as this defeat was for Fabian Jeker, the mood in the audience was indescribable.