Michi Schär on Being Swiss and the Tour de France
The finish line of Stage 16 of this year’s Tour de France is in Bern. For the first time ever in history, ‘la Grande Boucle’ comes through the majestic, Swiss, medieval city – so what significance does this have for the only Swiss rider on the BMC Racing Team? We ask Michael ‘Michi’ Schär…
Quintessential Swissness is difficult to pin down due to many factors; there are no less than‘Swissness’ by default, pretty much means diverseness four official languages in the small Alpine country and countless dialects. It is surrounded by many different countries that add linguistic and culinary flavors to its culture and it has a unique yet complicated political system (Switzerland is a Confederation consisting of 26 different Cantons). ‘Swissness’ by default pretty much means diverseness.
Michi Schär is from Central Switzerland, more precisely from Sursee, a little town close to Lucerne. Lucerne is a stop on the do-not-miss-list of most visitors to Switzerland, in the German-speaking area which is Michi’s mother-tongue – yet he speaks fluent English and pretty good French too. He is the only Swiss rider on the BMC Racing Team in this year's Tour de France. We caught up with him just before the Tour begun to find out more...
The BMC Racing Team rider claims that he feels very Swiss. But what, for Michi, are some key characteristics of being Swiss? Michi mentions a typical one: “Punctuality. We’re always on time and very reliable, just like our famous watches.” Another stereotype? They like chocolate. This also holds true for Michi, his favorite one is called Ragusa, a soft, squidgy bar of greatness containing crunchy whole hazelnuts. “Definitely my fave!”
Being estranged from home for about 250 For cyclists in particular, Switzerland is heaven – the roads are super smoothdays a year and spending 90 of those in an intense racing environment makes Michi a bit of a nomad. What does he miss the most about home (aside from chocolate)? “I miss the quality of life in Switzerland when I’m out of the country – and the quality of the Swiss roads! For cyclists in particular, Switzerland is heaven. The quality of the roads is amazing. They are super smooth! I rarely have problems with pain in my lower back (typical experienced by riders when training on bumpy roads) when I ride at home – in marked contrast to when I ride in other countries where the conditions of the roads might not be so optimal for long-distance cycling”.
Speaking about riding in Switzerland, what are Michi’s favourite routes? “My absolute favorite loop takes in the Glaubenberg and Glaubenbielen mountain passes. They are not so well known, but still spectacular and quite steep. For Glaubenbielen, it takes about an hour to ride up – you pass through the quaint little ski resort of Sörenberg with the Brienzer Rothorn on the right, and on the way down into Brienz, you My favourite alpine pass is the Albula Pass. The view from up there is breath-takingcatch a glimpse of Brienzersee lake. It’s just stunning and there’s usually very little traffic,” Michi says. Switzerland offers a ton of challenging climbs. Michi’s favourite is the Albula Pass in the region of Engadine in Graubünden, an Alpine Canton in the southeast of Switzerland. “The view from the ‘Gipfel’ (‘summit’ in German) is simply breath-taking and on the way up you even pass an old viaduct. I love Graubünden’s varied landscape, the forests on the way up, the Mars-like plateau at the top and the super-fast descent into ‘La Punt-Chamues-ch’” (Romansh – another official language of Switzerland).
But Switzerland is not only a great training spot because of its diverse landscapes, but also because good weather is only a train ride away. If the weather is bad north of the Gotthard tunnel, it is often sunny in the south. Switzerland’s southernmost Canton, ‘Ticino’, with its palmtrees and all-year warm temperatures is practically a little Italy inside the Swiss border and it has the climate and culture to match.
For once, Michi gets to ride his beloved Swiss roads and passes during this year’s edition of the Tour de France. “The fact that the Tour is coming to Switzerland has been a huge motivation for me during the year” says Michi. His fan club will also be there to cheer for him, holding up signs with scissors drawn on them (Michi’s last name ‘Schär’ is very close to the German word ‘Schere’ which means scissors).
The club usually plans a camping trip around the time of the Tour to support their favorite rider – this year, they don't have to go very far at all, its happening on their door step. “I’m expecting a huge home party in Bern,” Michi says jokingly.
Stage 16 of the Tour de France should pass through Bern city between 17:00 and 18:30 this evening. Why not hop on a train and meet us there to cheer for Michi?