After experiencing the Super Classic courses crafted by Nas-Raddine Touhami, Paul Foulonneau returned the favor by introducing him to a curated blend of his favorite roads in the Alps.
Savoie: A Cyclist’s Paradise
Six years ago, Paul settled in Aix-les-Bains. “I wouldn't trade it for any other place in the world,” he said. “Riding alongside Lake Bourget on my bicycle offers one of the purest pleasures I know. It never fails to give me chills each time I pass it.”
Just a few kilometers from Paul’s home stands one of the most iconic landmarks of the Tour de France: the Grand Colombier. Its notorious steep switchbacks have set the stage for many dramatic TDF finishes.
“I took this opportunity to challenge my riding partner Nas-Raddine on some terrains he’s not used to – to see if I could catch him off guard!
“I set the pace,” Paul said, “advising him to conserve some energy for the long day ahead. The 36mm profile DURA-ACE wheels are perfect for these roads. Paired with tubeless tires, this setup offers comfort and responsiveness on this demanding route.”
Seminal le Semnoz
Le Semnoz was the second iconic climb of Paul and Nas-Raddine’s loop around the lake. The riders took the steepest part from the Quintal side. Ascending from the other side – starting at Laschaux – is more gradual and accessible with a beautiful descent on the other side.
“At an altitude of 1700 meters,” Paul said, “the heat becomes more bearable. The sun's rays are already gentler, so it's best not to linger even if the landscape does tempt you to a quiet gander. You can catch glimpses of the Belledonne Massif and even Mont Blanc from here.”
Le Revard at sunset
“Our adventure concluded with Lake Bourget consistently in the backdrop, serving as the landmark of our alpine adventure. Fatigue settled in, and the sun started setting. The temperature dropped, but we were joyful throughout and a vocal ‘We did it, mate!’ rounded the friendly ride off with a positive note.
Bike on a diet
Under the principle that "every little detail counts," Nas-Raddine put his already light bike on a diet. He replaced his ULTEGRA cassette with a DURA-ACE 11-30. He deliberately avoided the 34-tooth version, as he prefers smaller and smoother transitions. The last grams were shed with PRO’s Stealth Superlight saddle and 25mm tires.
Nas reflects on the ride
“Paul didn't lie,” Nas said. “Lake Bourget was magnificent. From the chic Aix-Les-Bains, the route circled the lake clockwise. It's certainly not high mountain territory, but with 1300 meters of elevation gain per ascent and often double-digit gradients, the climbs were just as challenging.
“The dreaded Grand Colombier stood out as a ruthless and majestic experience. It was the first peak of the day, with the next one already in sight. What appeared to be flat on the elevation profile turned out to be anything but, with climbs worthy of spring classics.
“These climbs were the perfect ingredients for an epic day where limits were pushed, and a lifelong friendship was forged.”