Wednesday, June 20, 2012
A good start and another very hot day still at 38C. The news of
a slightly later start time was really well received by all
Fireflies, particularly after yesterday's monster day. Today we
faced another day of climbing and our ride would take us to the
highest point of this year's tour 2,360m including another world
famous climb up Col d'Izoard.
Our very, very tired legs welcomed the start of the day as we
began with a 12km descent to the valley floor (thankfully very
little peddling required). We then began the first of four climbs
up the Col de Montgenevre. This should have been a relatively easy
climb but proved to be challenging with the early morning chill
making cold and aching legs. So we all stopped for an early coffee
or hot chocolate stop when we reached the top. Then a time
honoured Fireflies tradition... a number of riders including us the
club 18-30 boys got their orders in for a McDonalds! Yes, we know
it's bad but you can't knock tradition, and it doesn't really
matter when you're burning over 6,000 calories a day!
Back on the ride we had a quick 6km descent that took us to the
base of the Col d'Izoard, where Stu had a very close call, kissing
a safety barrier on the way down! Whether he had too much speed
into the cliff lined corner or was just trying to get a closer look
at the spectacular view, we'll never really know.
We pushed on through up the mountain roads (tarmac roads toady!)
to the Col d'Izoard which is a 19km climb with a gradient averaging
8-9%. This one is really long and really relentless. The really
great support team once again helped by pouring water over the
riders to keep them cool in the high heat. Luke had the added
pressure of carrying the internet-views tracker for the first time
today, so of course, he set a brutal pace for other riders to
follow. The riders climbed up 55 hairpin bends trying to distract
themselves from the pain in their legs by taking in some of the
most stunning scenery encountered on the ride so far. Riders began
to filter to the summit which looked a bit a odd lunar landscape so
was amazing to see. To our pleasure the support team had our Big
Macs, fries and Cokes waiting for us at the top and we really were
Then one of the highlights of the entire tour came in the form
of the descent down the other side. Huge sweeping turns lay in
front of us for the next 25km and with turns being visible for
miles and miles ahead, riders could descend with confidence easily
knowing if oncoming traffic was imminent.
The third climb of the day (The Col de Vars) immediately
followed the lunch break. Temperatures became almost unbearable
with riders removing almost every last shred of clothing (without
being naked) in a vain effort to keep cool. Although not as
challenging as Col d'Izoard on paper, the heat and tired legs made
this climb a real mental and physical slog to compete with the
riders being really spread out over the full length of the climb.
The tiny shop at the top of the climb must have been close to
running out of ice cream's once all the fireflies had passed
On the other side a brilliant 30km descent needed every inch of
concentration as the Fireflies were fading in the hot conditions.
The desperate desire to get home meant a 20 strong single file
peleton formed delivering the Fireflies home as quickly as
possible. The desire to finish the stage was so great that the
speed of the peleton ramped up to a high point of approximately
50kmph on the flat, with Stu adding the power, as he does best.
This was however to be everyone's undoing as they had nothing left
for the nasty 2km climb up to the finish line.
So, all in all, another brutal day left everyone exhausted, with
Stu struggling to keep his eyes open again. But Stu's tiredness and
inability to stay conscious is giving Luke, Ed and some of the
other Fireflies plenty of entertainment. Luke and Ed were so
impressed with the speed at which Stu shut down they have started
timing him with an impressive 12.8 seconds from wide awake to fast
Top Speed: 75kmph
Total Distance: 135km
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Temperatures and climbing were the order of day, and boy the
heat really stepped up a notch to a scorching 38C. So with sun
cream liberally applied, water bottles fully laden and rested legs
we began the longest climbing day of this year's tour (on the
hottest day of this year's tour….)
We were facing a very long steady climb for 50km up to the Col
del Lis, which turned out to be an action packed day involving a
total of four crashes (before lunch!) as bodies began to tire in
the heat. Happy to report all riders were OK despite some minor
wounds. The first crash involved Milesy who inadvertently crashed
into the back of the camera car, looking forward to seeing the
footage in due course! This was followed by Duncan having the next
to tumble. Strangely, once again video cameras were involved, as he
was following Luke down a fast descent while holding a camera in
one hand.... Meaning he was unable to effectively use his breaks so
he hit a car head on, totally destroying his £6,000 bike but
somehow walking away with only minor grazes. Heroically he is going
to continue the rest of the ride on a bike belonging to his Mrs.
Then in a totally separate accident but at exactly the same time,
Penny (Duncan's Wife) had a spill as she clipped Ed's rear tire
tumbling on her shoulder and spending the rest of the day cheering
from the support cars. (Starting to suspect Ed and Luke are stealth
mode attempting to take out the competition…).
Crashes over, we had a long tiring slog along the flats that
brought us to a much needed lunch break and a chance for everyone
to re-group, recover and prepare for the daunting task ahead.
One of the cycling world's top ten road racing awaited us after
lunch, the Colle Delle Finestre peaking at a staggering 2,176m.
This monster averages 11% gradient for approximately 20km of which,
the top 8km is an unpaved road.
We started out at the bottom in 38C heat which immediately
caused problems all round as we all needed regular water refills as
well as each rider being dowsed in water before they continued
slowly and steadily up the paved section. Desperate and loud
cries of 'COME ON FIREFLIES' echoed through the woodland and as we
tried to keep each other going. As our now very weary bodies
reached the final 8km, the tarmac ran out, the trees thinned to
what seemed like a never ending and barren landscape. Our stiff
road bikes struggled on the dusty and rocky surface and our speeds
dropped even further as we wrestled to gain traction and keep our
bikes upright. Riders spent the entire 8km weaving across the track
to find some firmer and smoother ground, oh and did I mention the
hairpin bends causing a lot of riders to fall and then struggle to
get started again?
To make matters even worse the air was thinning every and
draining the riders even more. After over a gruelling two hours of
this, the Fireflies finally began to reach the top, lead by the one
and only Ed Shires. The climb left us all exhausted, physically and
So to the descent... The riders descended down a very narrow and
technically challenging descent off the other side. Unfortunately,
this was not the last climb of the day and once we hit the valley
floor we immediately had a 7% gradient climb for 20km on the Colle
di Sestriere to the ski resort we were staying in - an oasis to us
all now. With little left in the tank riders trickled up the
mountain using every last bit of energy.
It felt like an epic and extraordinary day. Our tiredness knew
new bounds as was beautifully demonstrated by Stu, who fell asleep
at supper before the starter had even arrived. We woke him,
he ate his starter and immediately fell asleep again only to be
woken for the pasta course. This pattern continued through to
Needless to say, we all slept incredibly well. Job done.
Total Distance: 151km
Monday, June 18, 2012
Total Mileage - 0km
Top speed - 0MPH
What an amazing day! To everyone's delight we didn't need to get
up at 6am and we didn't have to climb any mountains today.
Rest day did unfortunately mean a few of us missed out on
breakfast, as after a lot of riding and maybe some celebrating last
night, not everyone got up on time...
However, the Fireflies rest day proceedings began with an
obligatory bike cleaning session. This was the perfect opportunity
for riders to show off some more bike gadgets and 'the perfect
cleaning technique' not that we were all still behaving
competitively or anything! The cleaning then moved on to clothing
where we transformed our luxury jet spa baths into make shift
washing machines for all our dirty cycling kits.
To our surprise, and possibly to the surprise of the happy couple,
our hotel was hosting two weddings today. Hotel staff decided
to move all 50 Fireflies plus our entourage so were herded like
cattle away from the view of any wedding guests. Despite having
over a 100 cycling jerseys hanging from balcony windows, the hotel
staff spent the day trying to hide us from view including an all
day ban from using the pool or any communal areas. In fact, most of
the Fireflies day was spent forcibly trying to avoid the two
weddings rather than actual recovery or resting.
Ed and Stu took the opportunity to get some treatment from the
team masseuse, Luke decided to catch a quick snooze before the
wedding Karaoke began. It seems Robbie Williams 'Angels' is just as
popular on the continent at weddings as it is here!
The evening dinner was a very inspiring, humbling and emotional
experience for everyone as each Firefly took their turn to stand up
and talk to the group and describe what the ride meant to
Words cannot describe the emotion and powerful feelings expressed
by some of the riders, and how their lives or the lives of others
close to them have been affected by cancer.
And it made us realise that although the ride is hard, it really
showed what we are doing is so worthwhile, if even in a small way
we can bring some hope to anyone whose life is changed by Leukaemia
and other forms of cancer.
It reminded us... FOR THOSE WHO SUFFER, WE RIDE.
Monday, June 18, 2012
The mornings are always hard and day 4 began with a lot of
aches, pains and some moaning about the lack of running water in
the hotel so not the best start.
Despite having very sore legs, shoulders and derrières we seemed
to be able (just) to continue and once the legs start turning
again, we all begin to feel a little better. Initially we were
split up during the morning session and we each helped various
other fireflies with mechanical and technical issues, but happily
Team Mill were reunited at lunch.
Day 4 was another really hot day and also proved to be the
longest day on the tour with a massive total of 215km. It was all
about distance; in fact the 18-30 club are now official members of
the 200K club!
Not sure if this was easier or harder but this particular stage of
the ride was actually relatively flat with minimal climbs and very
few descends, but the biggest challenge was to maintaining a decent
enough pace to ensure we reached the hotel before the sun
disappeared behind the horizon.
There were plenty of opportunities for riders to get to grips with
drafting along the flats and working together to keep ticking
through the miles. Staying hydrated and keeping up moral was key
and vital as 4 days of riding and some tiredness began to kick in.
The three of us hit some impressive speeds on the flats and put in
some strong performances on the uphill gradients (even if we do say
Later in the day and to everyone's shock (and horror) a surprise
climb has been thrown into the route after whopping 180km ride.
Needless to say the group of 50 tired bodies were unimpressed but
every single rider dug deep and we all dragged ourselves up the 20%
climb. At the top as the Fireflies riders arrived, we all
cheered our fellow riders to get up the final stages and celebrate
- this was however, before we all remembered there were still over
20km to go...
To demonstrate and explain the dedication of all of the
Fireflies riders one of us, David, put in over a 15 hour ride...
this was despite the support team spray painting directional arrows
on the roads at each junction, David missed one and took an
unfortunate wrong turn just after lunch. So determined was he to
finish the stage totally unassisted, he refused to tell the support
team where he was and made and stuck by his decision to find his
own way back. Luckily some locals took pity and provided him a map,
two lights and some directions so he set off on his way!
To put in to context whilst the majority of the riders including
club 18-30 arrived and the hotel around 19:30 and were enjoying the
England game, poor David was still out on the road refusing help
and focussed his efforts on completing his goal. He arrived at the
hotel just before midnight after a staggering 15hrs 30mins on his
bike and having ridden over 120km totally on his own. He had a true
hero's welcome, with the spirit of the Fireflies cheering and
welcoming him in and he spent the rest of the evening enjoying
Campari before a well earned rest day.
So after another epic ride, there were knowing looks of
appreciation all around the camp for what we had all just achieved
Top Speeds 77kmph
Friday, June 15, 2012
Left at 08:15 arrived 21:00!
2nd longest stage of this year's tour.
During the first climb of the day Ed and Luke stopped to help a
struggling Firefly but unfortunately despite their best efforts he
had to get in a support car for the rest of the ride. As our boys
battled on the day bought lots of brutal climbs and incredible
descents making the route feel like three days crammed into one.
Highlights included a chapel at the top of the 4th climb, which
commemorated legends of the sport who have passed away.
Then came the business end of the day, the last climb. This
started with a reasonably steady steep accent until they arrived at
what is know as 'the wall' aka an incredibly steep 25% climb for
nearly 0.5km. This presented a truly tough challenge in even being
able to stay upright (!) let alone keep the bike moving at
Luke stormed up the climb and was the 4th firefly up - encouraged
on by rallying cries from Ed who was shortly behind. They then
focused their attention on cheering the remaining flies in. Stu was
adorned with a Scotland flag during a race up 'the Wall' with
another firefly who was wearing a union jack. Stu dutifully won the
race to the delight of the Scottish contingency. Day 3 was the most
incredible day so far and finished in the beautiful lake Como,
where over a well deserved dinner this stage was voted by all
veteran fireflies as the hardest day of cycling from ANY fireflies
Top speed -72.8kmph on the descent.
Top heart rate:
Ed - 189bpm
Luke - 233bpm (we think/hope there may be some discrepancies with
Thursday, June 14, 2012
The guys set out about 8.15 after a very average night sleep
caused by drunk Italian youth's singing happy birthday at
least seven times and not getting on very well with, and I quote
'European sheets' apparently are very easy to get tangled up
Day two began, good news the sun was out, bad news they were
facing an 85km climb, a constant climb that had a low gradient but
just went on and on and on. This pretty much zapped the
energy out of the guys and they still had a 70km climb ahead of
It was a tough ride and a tough morning but all three reached
the top at lunchtime, which they found interesting, an out of
season ski resort, which felt like a ghost town or something from a
All in all the stats were 131km with 2500m of climbing!
Stu was on form, riding with Cameron - one of the guides and
Javier, leaving Ed and Luke behind (something to do with the
weight/body mass power ratio - accordingly to Stu). The climb took
a long time but the descent was amazing. At the top it was
pretty cold and the guys had been warned to layer up, also warned
more rain was on the way but within two minutes in to the descent
the riders were stripping off with a pleasant change in conditions
- heat and sun.
Competitiveness has started to creep in, Stu with the Javier and
Cameron (both Ed and Luke complained that Cameron gave Stu a hearty
push up the mountain) Scottish favouritism! So Ed and Luke
joined forces with two other riders and eventually all caught up,
taking turns in front, going fast and really enjoying the
ride. The views were breath taking and some of the first real
views they'd seen so far.
At supper our Mill guys were awarded a special mention for
performance - the most aggressive new comers! And told an amazing
team! Go Mill! They were also given the nickname (along with some
other youngsters) of Club 18-30 I think this will stick when they
A new element of the Fireflies in 2012 is the weighing of the
riders morning and night; stats below people:
Ed: 85.3 to 85.1
Luke: 72.5 to 70.8
Stu: 97.7 - 96.7
Oh and a big shout out and thanks to Alex Webster for the loan
of the arm warmers and Gillet!
Don't forget to support them and donate at:
Stuart Turnbull -
Edward Shires - http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/FireFliesTour2012_EdShires
Luke Raffety -
And you can follow them closely on the Fireflies Tour official
website as they are now live tracking the riders - check it out
Thursday, September 29, 2011
If you like the thought of a sexy burlesque queen pouring
champagne dangling from a loft ceiling in a hammock, drinking
exotic cocktails like the Royal Hampshire, The Pink Troyan and The
Firefly, and listening to DJ Zen Freeman spinning everything from
Adele to Fleetwood Mac, The Mill L.A.'s Launch Party and Fireflies
Ride Welcome Reception was the place to be Wednesday night. Over
400 industry colleagues and friends-including Old Spice phenom
Isaiah Mustafa and director extraordinaire Tom Kuntz who made a
special guest DJ appearance-turned up to celebrate The Mill's
spectacular new space and the Fireflies arrival from San Francisco.
This year the riders raised $60,000 for City of Hope cancer
"It was amazing to host so many of our favorite agency clients,
directors, editors, producers, artists and friends in our new
digital studio space," says The Mill L.A.'s MD, Ben Hampshire. "We
have hunkered down and worked hard together over the years and it's
always great to have some fun in a more relaxed setting! A big
thank you to everyone who came and made it such a fun party."
And if you missed the party, here are some photo highlights by our own Nick
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
The Fireflies 'West' are making their way down the coast from
San Francisco, in the midst of their 4th annual ride for charity.
Thus far for this year's ride the Fireflies have raised over
$50,000 for City of Hope hospital's leukemia and lymphoma research
and treatment for a cure.
For those unable to tear themselves away from the office to join
the riders, check out the Fireflies App It allows users to track the
riders and donate directly to the cause from their iPhones. And if
that's not enough, British Weekly, America's only weekly British
newspaper, has given the ride a plug as well. Check it out here!
Stay tuned for more as the Fireflies get closer to Los Angeles
where their ride ends on Wednesday with a warm welcome party at The
Mill L.A. To read play by play of each day's journey from our own
Los Angeles MD Ben Hampshire, or to donate, go here: www.fireflieswest.com
Thursday, June 23, 2011
After over 1000 gruelling kilometres, countless savage
mountains, numerous tyre changes, and every weather condition known
to man, the Fireflies were treated to small lie-in before setting
off for the final time at 9am. Leaving Frejous, they followed
the coastal road, passing through the likes of San Rafael, for a
gentle 50k roll alongside the glorious Cote d'Azur.
They paused to mop their moist brows and have a welcome ice
cream and a cup of coffee at a beach side restaurant en route, but
unfortunately the owner seemed to suffer a temporary sense of
humour failure at being confronted by a hoard of hungry and thirsty
Fireflies! Undetered, they continued on, basking in the
beautiful sunshine and lapping up the stunning views along the
coast. After enjoying a final Fireflies lunch, they saddled
up for the last stint to begin their grand entrance into
Rounding the final bend, a police escort was ready and waiting
to lead them in. They paraded down the Croisette to a
cheering crowd, crossing the finishing line outside the Palais!
Congratulations Chris and Alex - we're
proud of you!
Champagne flowed and there were congratulatory hugs and cheers
aplenty before many of the Fireflies took to their heels for a
traditional dip in the sea.
As the celebrations drew to a close, Alex and Chris dismantled
their bikes and began lugging their belongings off in search of
their apartment. 45 minutes later and after probably the most
labour intensive challenge they'd had all week, they eventually
staggered into their apartment! After a quick rest and a
brief pitstop via McDonalds (!), they hit the town - a little
leaner and browner - for a final celebratory dinner and several
much-longed for beers!
We'd like to offer huge congratulations to our Mill boys Chris
and Alex - and all the Fireflies - on a truly tremendous
Au revoir… and see you in 2012!
Don't forget, if you would like to show your support for the guys
with a donation, their fundraising pages are as follows: