A group of riders drawn mainly from the film and advertising industries are gearing up to take part in the 10th annual Fireflies Tour that will see them cycle 1,000 kilometres through the Alps from Geneva to Cannes with the aim of taking the amount they have raised for a cancer charity to beyond the £1,000,000 mark. What’s more, they’ll be doing it on some rather gorgeous, custom-painted Colnago bikes.
The first Fireflies Tour – although it wouldn’t acquire that name until later, as explained below – took place in 2001 when five cyclists rode through the French Alps to raise money for the Catherine Lewis Centre at London’s Hammersmith Hospital, raising an impressive £100,000 between them. Since then, the sponsorship total has risen to £800,000, bringing the magical seven-figure barrier into sight.
The challenge, whose motto is “For those who suffer, we ride,” was dreamt up by Jake Scott, Adrian Moat, Nick Livesey, all directors at Ridley Scott Associates Films. That trio was joined on the inaugural ride by Tim Page, head of TV at Young & Rubicam, and ski instructor, Chris Haworth, who given his knowledge of the mountains, helped develop the route.
The end of the ride was timed to coincide with the Cannes Lions Film Festival, which is focused on young, up-and-coming directors and crew and the film advertising industry, as it has done each year since.
The following year, nine cyclists took part, and each year since then, the numbers have swelled to the point that when this year’s ride gets under way on 15th June, there will be no fewer than 60 people setting off on the full itinerary, which takes in some of the classic Alpine climbs made famous by the Tour de France, and on the way they’ll be joined by a further 90 cyclists taking in parts of the route.
Each rider commits to raising £2,000 sponsorship for Leuka, a charity based at Hammersmith hospital that facilitates research into leukaemia.
So, why the Fireflies Tour? Well, there’s a story behind the name, and it’s a pretty evocative one too. “One night on the second year we had to descend the final mountain, Col de Turini in the dark,” explain the organisers.
“The moon was hidden and none of us had lights. As we entered the forest it became virtually impossible to see. Suddenly thousands upon thousands of Fireflies appeared, hovering above the road, as if to guide us through the darkness. It was the most magical thing you've ever seen. As we came upon the first town light they vanished and we were safe.”
That alone would make for an interesting backstory, but there’s more: “What's incredible is the gene that allows fireflies to glow is helping researchers track the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs. Much like it helped us descend the mountain.”
Unsurprisingly, given the founders’ pedigree, the action has been captured on film – the 2006 ride was showcased in a 70 minute film entitled Safety in Numbers, which is available from Amazon for £7.99, while footage of last year’s ride has been posted to the video-sharing site, Vimeo, and appears at the end of this article.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the Fireflies Ride, custom-painted Colnago bikes have been secured through the help of Peter Nisbet, managing director of Windwave, the Italian marque’s UK importer.
According to the blog thewashingmachinepost, the project was sanctioned by Ernesto Colnago himself and the first batch of bikes, the EPS for those who favour carbon and the Master X Light for those who prefer steel, was delivered on Friday 28th May at the Rapha Café in Clerkenwell, London.
Anyone interested in acquiring a Colnago Fireflies can find out more information //firefliescolnago [at] me.com">by email.
Full information on the Fireflies Tour and the history behind it can be found on its website, where you can also make a donation to help the team reach their target.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.