Here is the Fireflies progress report sent to Rohan (Park Royal Studios’ MD) from Paul Mann over the weekend
Many thanks for your generous support of the ride that has so far taken us beyond hell and back!
We have had some rather interesting days on the Fireflies ride this year.
Our first day (in the rain) was a tester that we all found quite exhausting: 154 kilometers and just 30 km short of the distance of one of the big days on the Tour de France and this year’s Etape (the stage that the public race) with the same amount of climbing crammed into those miles. This would be fine if we were only doing the one stage as with the Etape, but no, we got up the next morning and did it all again only this time with an even greater amount to climb. Day two was 120 k long with 11275 feet height gain on the day.
This placed us at the foot of the Col de l’Iseran, the second highest pass in Europe, for an overnight stay with the third day and some ‘real’ climbing to be done. Unfortunately the road over the top was closed to traffic because of a blizzard. Even more unfortunate was the fact that by the time the road was closed we were already cycling through a snowstorm on the last hour of the climb in thin air. The descent led to some treacherous moments as the snow stabbed our faces and froze our bodies. The road disappeared under snow but we had to get down or quite literally die on the mountain. Frozen bodies made controlling the bike more difficult as we progressed to the point where the risk of crashing was regarded as worth the gaining speed to cut a line through the snow. With a contact area of a few millimeters and slick tyres it was an ‘exciting’ journey with my body shaking so violently that I was in fear of just steering off the cliff edges that border the road.
Many people had to be rescued by members of the public in cars or vans with our support team who tirelessly drove perilously up the mountain to find riders huddled together in the lee of rocks for shelter.
Our group of five was one of the last to make it down unassisted, throwing caution to the wind and with little choice through frozen hands and wheels that were covered in ice we plunged at speeds approaching 80kph down the last two kilometres in freezing rain to the sanctuary of a mountain cafe. An hour later with bellies full of warm food we set off again for the next drag to the final climb up the Telegraph for supper (a ‘beyond category’ climb in the Tour de France).
Yesterday we had the Col du Glandon with its 11% gradient as a category 1 climb. This had me cursing all the way up the last five kilometers after being softened by the previous 25 km drag upwards. We were rewarded by a steep decent into a shorter climb and then along 25 km to the Alpe d’Huez. We came off the Alpe at turn 6 and along a road known as The Balcony’. The view over the road edge as we progressed ever upwards is stunning. A small shin high edge wall with gaps in it reveals the valley falling below you in an almost vertical fall as the road clings to or is cut into the cliff face. After our last uphill stretch of 16 km we arrived at La Grave and a magnificent supper and the reward of a rest day today.