The 2013 Fireflies tour came to a triumphant close on Wednesday as the riders sped down La Croisette and into the Cannes Lions festival. Catch up on the first leg of their journey here before Tom, Ed and Tara talk us through the remaining ride across Italy and France.
Le Grave to Oulx, Italy
Following a well needed rest day we set off on the first of our five remaining days. The sad news of the morning had seen the Col de Galibier remain shut due to heavy snow at the summit. This meant that a reroute was needed for us to reach our next destination in Italy! Where we were to experience good coffee and less Gallic service!!!
Even with a slightly less hilly route, our route still took in some classic climbs including the Jafferau; a relatively short but steep climb used in this years Giro d'Italia. Like much of the ride so far, Ed flew up the climb which saw him sit 9th overall on strava (a top ten that includes a few pros...)
It was a day which saw a few injuries appear on the tour. Funnily doing something like this, your body questions what it is having to contend with, and a few things are learnt. For example a quick portable ultrasound from the tour doctor showed that Tom had a deformed kneecap, which was causing a fair bit of pain! However once in Italy we were treated to good food and comfy beds in effort to recover for another challenging day in the saddle!
Oulx, Italy to Le Sauze
So after a slightly embarrassing misjudgment from Ed on the Jafferau yesterday saw him start the day with a basket attached to his Colnago and plastic hotdog on his helmet. The moral of that story is not to finish a climb by taking-over others whilst complaining your tyres aren't pumped up enough as a result a puncture at the bottom...
So as we set off from Italy we had a big day ahead of us. We would take in 3 big climbs today; Col de Montgenevre, Col D'Izoard and Col de Vars. The injuries had kicked in fully today. Tara had seen some serious strain on her ankle, which had made it swell to resemble the hot dog from Ed's helmet more than a human joint! But with strapping and painkillers being the order of the day we climbed back on and went to tackle some mountains!
Montgenevre was a good warm up to day ahead, if an 1800m col can be called that.... Izoard was next, an old Fireflies favourite. Topping out at 2300m it was the highest climb so far on the tour. Tom however felt it necessary to stop and change a very tiny elderly lady's puncture. Much to the amusement of passing fireflies...
However the soaring heat made this day a particularly tricky one and the final climb up Col de Vars was even trickier. Bodies were falling apart and the hotel could not come soon enough. But come it did (after an 2KM climb at 11% gradient to the hotel entrance, just what you need after 80 plus miles in the saddle....) and again it was about getting as much food in as possible and rest injuries for another very big day to come.
Le Sauze to Le Sauze
So the night before it was confirmed what had been rumoured by many… that we would be spending 2 nights in the same hotel. Obviously the question would be, why when we were planning to finish in Cannes, would we stop in one place for 2 nights???
Well the answer should be met with a question.
When you are staying a mere 15KM from the beginning of the highest paved road in Europe (Col de Bonnette, at a height of 2800m), what must you do? Obviously you must climb it, but not just from one side but from both. So that is what we would do. The plan would be climb the mountain descend it down the other side, have lunch. Then cycle home, back the way we came, via the mountain.
This was again a real struggle of a day, not just physically but mentally. It was a real challenge not to turn home once we had reached the summit the first time, but descending down the other side had to be done. And for us, the reward of such a fantastic descent and beautiful climb was well worth the pain. Dosed with prescription drugs and a local anesthetic patch on his knee (a medicated experience which earned him the "low pain threshold" award for the day) Tom climbed the Col twice. However the real Heroine of the day was Tara, whose ankle was playing havoc for her, had to resort to filling her shoe with ice to try and make it better.
A beautiful yet painful day, which saw us cover over 3500 meters of climbing and see some truly amazing scenery. Also Ed made friends with a little furry friend on the way up the climb, as he and Tom met a marmotte casually drinking some spilt energy drink on the road! However with the end almost in sight now and what can be classed as the final big day over, Cannes was almost in our sights....
Le Sauze to Castellane
So with Cannes almost upon us, it was easy to think we had completed the last of our major mountains. However there was a still a sting in the tail to come, with us having to climb Col D'Allos, and Col de Champs.
After the last of climbs, the wildlife joined us for our descent out of the grand alps, with numerous marmottes being spotted and the odd stag too. With leaving the high mountains it brought its own set of hazards. After few accidents occurred, with Ed coming a cropper by misjudging a corner and decided to get a bit more personal with an alpine wall.... Also on one last descent that saw a number of the Fireflies descend in a large group of about 25, we would pass through a number of alpine tunnels. On this descent one of the scarier things that can happen did to one Firefly, Dan Bronks. A front wheel blowout while being passed by a lorry at 50 kmph, requires a lot of skill to stay up right, and Dan held on and managed to prevent what could of resulted in a very nasty crash for not just him but the numerous fireflies behind him.
So following some tricky descents and all the climbs behind us, many riders stopped at a lake of ice creams and a quick dip and then onto the hotel. Post dinner, thank you speeches were made, bodies retired either for rest or a small tipple, and all that remained was the final stretch into Cannes.
Castellane to Cannes
1500M of climbing
All that remained on our epic trip was a day into Cannes. After a couple of relatively small hills it contained a lot of descending into the main town to finally hit sea level. Following our arrival to Cannes we needed to wait for our police escort. So during our quick break we managed to find a bar, drank them dry of cold beer, and had a quick dip in the sea! Then it was onto our arrival on La Croisette.
It was a hugely special moment for all the riders to be met by friends and family. Ed crossed the line for the second time, Tara her first European Fireflies (and first Mill Lady on the ride) and Tom his first time on a Fireflies ride. The sense of completion for us all was a tremendous feeling. The fact we had achieved something many of us had been working towards for months, and all for such an amazing cause as Leuka, is a memory we will share for the rest of our lives.
You hear many stories from people of how cancer has affected those they love, or themselves. To have had an opportunity to play our small part to help in the fight against cancer and Leukemia is very special. Alongside thanking all our individual sponsors and The Mill for their support, we would also love to take this opportunity to ask people to take a moment to sign up to Bone marrow register. It is a fantastic thing to do and could easily save a life.
Ed, Tom and Tara.
It's not too late to sponsor our heroic Fireflies three! Head here for all their sponsorship information and dig deep.