Well here we are at 3,000m on the top of Pic Blanc, Alpe D’Huez. It’s 7am on a Sunday morning, 2 degrees and pretty blooming cold stuck in a long lift queue to get up the top of the mountain. But still, it’s pretty special.
After my dismal qualifying run, I was pleased to be back in high spirits. I’d fixed my rear wheel, and had a couple of sneaky last lift runs down into Oz the previous night to make sure everything was running OK, and now was heading back up the mountain. Because I didn’t qualify it meant I had to race after the rest of my group, who were all in the Mega amateurs race. No problem though and by this time everyone was pretty relaxed and just looking forward to riding the track. Myself and Duncan had checked it out the previous day and could see the snowy start and long run across the glacier might cause a few problems. Whilst waiting I saw a few guys walking back up with mechs hanging off and their race ended early– clearly they had been caught up in pile ups from the first race – something to avoid at all costs!
I watched the guys set off, complete with Mega music, and a lot of cheering on! Here is Lee’s race run: Warning this is an hour long, but gives you a very good idea of what it is like!
After these guys shot off, I got swiped out and off I went. No mass start and Mega music for me, oh well. I guess the one advantage was having a fairly clear run and this meant I could pick a good line through the first snow sections and then down onto the glacier. Traversing it was pretty quick and surprisingly grippy. I had a tumble at the bottom though and somehow managed to get my foot stuck, upside down, between the front cables and hoses. It took me a little while to untangle with the kind aid of a passing rider, then I was back off again. The top section was basically Wales on steroids (rocky singletrack), and then bang into the first climbs. It was at this point that I started noticing a distinct lack of oxygen and a lot of heavy breathing going on! Despite doing a lot of Mega commutes as part of what might loosely be called ‘training’, the altitude makes it a different ball game. Anyway, pressing on I could see riders bunching up in front of me down a steep rock drop section, so I just thought f*** it and barrelled down it on the Spicy to get past them. This was particularly well received by the crowd and gave me a little boost mentally. There was quite a bit of shouting ‘allez, allez!’ going on.
More climbing after this and then we started on the run downhill into Oz, which I knew well as we had ridden it a few times. I managed a few little sneaks on the berms and hung on down the steep greasy section so felt I was doing OK. But by the time I had almost reached the bottom berms my hands were tiring, and I actually remember thinking to myself ‘’Your arms are tired now, so slow down a bit’’, except I didn’t, and the next moment bang I was over the bars on a big rock and eating dust again. No harm done though so I took a little moment, and headed off into Oz.
Clearing that section and dropping onto the fire road, I knew I was going to finish, and that really spurred me on (plus the English guys encouragment, with their big ‘PEDAL PEDAL!’ sign helped!)
Blasted down the fire road trying to overtake as many riders as possible, and then into the lovely singletrack down into Allemont. Nearly there. Traffic was a bit heavy by this point and riders bunching up. One guy I had been battling with most of the way held me up a bit on the switchbacks, so I gave him a little tyre buzz just to let him know I was there Onto a little uphill climb on road, and then into the last section. By this time I was really quite elated just to know I was going to finish the thing, cleared that section, then across the bridge and then I hauled out of the saddle to sprint for the line – MEGA FINISH & MEGA KNACKERED!
Hooking up with the rest of my group, we all swapped tales, ate the picnic lunch handed out, and big smiles all round at an epic ride! I was really happy just to have finished! Pretty much all of us said ‘we are coming back next year’. I think a really nice aspect of a race like this, is that you don’t need to be ultra-competitive or fit to do it, but at the same time it will almost certainly spark a little fight inside you to keep pushing: allez allez!
Overall conclusion: If you love riding mountain bikes, go and do this race at least once in your life for an experience like no other!
Here are all our results:
Pete, 203rd, 1:02
Bob 87th, 1:05
Gav, 28th, 1:06
Paul, 210th, 1:33
Duncan, 125th, 1:14
Barry, 175th, 1:21
Lee, 65th, 1:10
Will 53rd, 1:20
We’ll finish up our series of Megavalanche posts with an essentials list if you plan on going next year, and some reviews of the gear we used.