You met our bold Fireflies last week, and in-between the 12% gradients, mountainous peaks and blazing 30 degree Celsius /80 degrees Fahrenheit heat they've still managed to pen a guest-blog charting the epic first four days of their ride…
Amphion les bains to la clusaz
The first day brought some excitement for all but some nerves blended with it for the virgin Fireflies. Even though the gods were smiling on us with the weather, it did not change the fact we had to cancel the first major climb of the tour, Col de Joux plane, because of risk of avalanche on the descent. With a re-route we would do 200m less climbing that day but would still have to tackle the Col de Colombiere which has a summit if 1613m. It was the biggest climb ever for Tom and Tara, and for a lot of people on the ride. Tom and Ed (who ate every 10 mins!) rode it apart and Tara rode up with Fireflies West Sebastian aka Das Motor.
It was a fantastic experience for everyone to get to the top and in true Fireflies spirit everyone was clapped up to the peak. We then rolled down to the hotel, totally exhausted and aching. After stuffing our faces with pasta we all retired quickly totally knackered trying to recover before the next day. For the boys, this included Ed rubbing lotion into Tom's back, a special moment, and for the girls, Tara and Mary Nockles continued their ritual of applying mentholated patches to their backs and eating copious amounts of chocolate.
La clusaz to albertville 142km distance 2800m ascent Luckily the weather has come good for us so far on the trip. Wednesday was hot, with temperatures hitting the 30's/80's, and the sun was even hotter (even by Californian standards), so trying not burn and staying hydrated was important. Especially for Ed, who forgot to put sun cream on yesterday... Lobstertastic!
The day was pretty tough again taking in three significant climbs. So after a re-fuelling stop in Lake Annecy, we climbed the Col de Marais, Col de Croix -Fry and the Col des Saisies. All these climbs will appear in the Tour de France this year and take place around the beautiful lake Annecy. It was a long hard day with the last climb definitely needing some TLC before the Tour de France roles through as it currently resembled the road surface of a poorly maintained B road in Croydon, often with the cries of Tara screaming "pot hole"! Everyone got home safely after a fast descent to the hotel and we spent the evening getting ready for was set will be the toughest day yet. We would be covering 160km and climbing 4500m. Luckily Friday brings a well-earned rest day! Untill then it will be sleep and recovery as our bodies are asking it to stop but we must continue with the challenge ahead.
Albertville to la grave 160km 4500m climbing Yesterday was a really big one. We took in two huge climbs the Col de Madeleine and the Col the Glandon and cover almost 160km (or 100 miles). Luckily the weather was shining on us once again, so working on those tan lines continued. Madeleine (officially still a closed road, but open for bikes) was a very tough climb and at the top all the riders were cheered up by fellow flies. Some disconcerting news was given at the top though - that a fallen tree on the decent had blocked the path below, so after an impromptu lunch at the top in a small cafe (pasta carbonara for 50!) an alternative descent was found and all riders headed down the mountain. Then it was on to Glandon, a road used in last years Tour de France. Another brutal climb ridden in swealtering heat, over 20km which the final 2km was at an average of 12% gradient. However after tackling the col all riders gathered and descended together. By this time it was almost 1800pm and we still had to cover another 70km. So as the Fireflies were strung out across the route home, which had a nice 20km drag up to the hotel, the sun had set and the eventual sight of home for the night and the rest day was an amazing feeling. By a long way this was the toughest day of riding so far. The tans are coming on well, and what has up until to now felt a bit like a romantic trip for two for Tom and Ed… has been interrupted by us having to share a room with ex-Mill friend Charlie Bayliss.
Rest! There are sore bodies today on the rest day, as we rub salt and dirt from our clothes, bodies and bikes. Rumours are filling the air about some more monstrous climbs to come between now and the five days of riding till we reach Cannes. Having never ridden mountains like we have on this tour, let alone the two monsters of day 3, we never really appreciated what others had said that as you are climbing, you ask yourself "how it is possible to still be climbing after 2 hours!?!?" On reaching the summit of these climbs the sense of elation, mixed with the pain of lactic acid in your legs which has been screaming for you to stop for over an hour is a strangely bizarre feeling. Beyond the mountains the length of time we have spent on the bike is a real shock, we would never of expected spending up to 13 hours on the road, and riding for approximately 10 of those, having to come in to hotels with lights on our bikes to avoid getting hit going through an alpine tunnel. But the knowing that it is all being done for an amazing cause means that as you are slogging it up a mountain and coming into your hotel exhausted, it easy to take your mind off the pain.
Thanks Fireflies! Incredible effort and inspirational stuff… we'll be waiting for you in Cannes to catch up on the final push.