After climbing Mont Ventoux and completing the third stage from Grenoble to Arles, Roberto Balzaretti, Swiss Ambassador to France, answered some questions from maxon France, official partner of the “En Route avec la Suisse” (“On the Road with Switzerland”) project.

“En route avec la Suisse” is a project that began on March 29, 2022, in Aigle, Switzerland. It consists of 12 stages lasting a few days each, spread over two years. This unique project involves a journey filled with meetings and exchanges, and discovering Franco-Swiss initiatives all over France. Its three key aspects: one bike, one ambassador, many encounters.

maxon is delighted to support this inspiring project devised and executed by the Swiss Embassy in France by providing a road bike equipped with the new maxon BIKEDRIVE AIR, a lightweight motor integrated out of sight inside the frame.

(Interview conducted in August 2022)

How did you get this idea of a bike tour?

“The point of the ‘En route avec la Suisse’ bike tour is to get out of Paris and learn more about the rest of France: its regions, its distinctive features, and its curiosities. And also to find out what types of things the Swiss citizens living in France are involved in. How are they involved in industry and the economy, in science, research, art, and on the cultural scene in general. This is all a normal part of any ambassador’s job in their host country. What’s new and different about what we have decided to do is that we are making the journey by bicycle.

We decided to make this a bike tour partly because everyone is familiar with bicycles; they’re a part of our everyday lives. We all have memories of bikes, even if it’s just about how we learned to ride one. It’s also something that has a well-established tradition in both Switzerland and France.”

Is the bike the new diplomatic tool?

“For an ambassador, the bicycle removes a barrier when you go to meet people all around the country. It’s an eco-friendly way to travel at a gentle pace that puts you directly in touch with your surroundings. If you arrive in a limo with an escort, wearing your suit and tie, that gives a very different impression compared to showing up on a bike. As soon as you get off your bike, you find yourself right in the midst of the group you came to visit.”

What message do you want to convey through “En route avec la Suisse”?

“The message is to go out and discover what constitutes the Franco-Swiss relationship, in the most responsible and sustainable way possible, and getting right up close. We’ve completed three stages so far, and I must say, it’s going very well. We’ve had some interesting and productive encounters, some of them very spontaneous and authentic, with players from industry, local authorities, municipalities, regions, large and small towns, and our fellow citizens. We are succeeding in the main purpose, which is to explore this beautiful country, France, and I’m sure we’ll keep meeting fascinating people in the upcoming stages.”

How would you describe your experience of riding the BIKEDRIVE AIR e-bike?

(quote) “The frame and brakes are excellent. The electrical assistance provided by the small motor and battery built into the frame makes rides and transitions more comfortable. The electrical assistance is off when you’re riding on flat terrain, but when you need to go up a little slope or over a ridge, it’s so nice to be able to rely on this very flexible motor that doesn’t slow the bike when it stops assisting. I really think maxon and Cipollini have done a great job. It’s been a very good ride up to now.”

How did it feel to climb Mont Ventoux with the maxon BIKEDRIVE AIR?

“For the third stage, from Grenoble to Arles, I set out in the morning from Vaison-la-Romaine and then rode up Mont Ventoux. I covered around ten kilometers of flat road, and then went up the north face of Mont Ventoux. A few facts and figures about Mont Ventoux: the climb is 21 km long, it has 1500 m of elevation gain, and an average gradient of 7.5%, rising to 13.5% in some places. Those are the ideal conditions for the maxon bike. Having climbed Mont Ventoux from all three sides with my conventional bike, I can tell you that the assistance makes a huge difference, although if you try to save on battery use with the electric bike, you have to put in the work and draw on your athletic ability to make sure you reach the top. During the Atlantic stage, I rode over the Aubisque Pass. With this bike, you can climb a challenging pass like that, reach the top, and still be able to hold a normal conversation with the people waiting for you up there. All in all, climbing Mont Ventoux on a bike equipped with the maxon BIKEDRIVE AIR motor was a very interesting and very pleasant experience.”

Schedule and stages in detail:


29 march - 01 april: Aigle - Lyon
01 – 05 may: Bordeaux – Biarritz
04 – 08 july: Grenoble – Marseille
03 – 07 october : Bâle – Strasbourg
23 – 27 october : Bordeaux – Nantes
21 – 25 november : Marseille - Monaco


27 - 31 march: Troyes - Dijon - Les Verrières
02 - 05 may: Besançon - Belfort - Delle
07 - 10 june: Rennes - Angers - Le Mans
03 - 06 july: Le Havre - Caen - Paris
05 - 08 september: Lille - Amiens - Paris
09 - 13 october : Bastia - Ajaccio
november: Vichy - Limoges

To learn all about the tour, visit the official website :

You may also be interested in this