As you all must have noticed there is a very big bike race which takes place in France every July, and has done for a number of years. Although technically it does not have the same status as the World Championships or the Olympics it is arguably far more famous and prestigious than either of them and is the one every bike racer wants to try at least once. Before the event there was a lot of hype surrounding the possibility of a British winner, following on from some impressive results from the Brits in the previous couple of years.
When it began all those years ago the event mainly featured French riders but it has since grown into a major event, attracting riders from all over the world. The entry list for this year still read like a who’s who of contemporary bike racing, despite the fact that luminaries such as Sir Bradley Wiggins would not be competing.
So, is it possible for a complete novice, such as myself, to compete in a race like this and hopefully make it to the finish in one piece? I know roughly what I’m doing as far as XC and Endurance mountainbiking goes but this discipline was something almost entirely new to me, well outside my comfort zone. I managed to get myself my entry, a ‘new-to-me’ bike and a ferry ticket and so off I went, wondering just exactly what I was letting myself in for.
The Megavalanche itself took place at Alpe d’Huez on July 13th, Apparently there was also a road race going on somewhere at about that time but I know nothing about that.
I had never done a downhill race before, and had almost exactly no experience of riding DH courses not during races, a few times down the easier ones at Innerleithen was about it. I therefore decided that the best introduction to such things would be to try the biggest and most famous races of them all and see how I got on, what could possibly go wrong?
The only good thing about taking a lift up through the fog is that it hides the massive drops below our feet. We eventually reached the summit, where the lift deposited us out into a small wooden hut before turning around and heading back down the hill. It felt very much like we had been dumped on an alien world by a spaceship which had then just left us there and gone home again. The land around us was barren rock, no sign of any vegetation of any kind anywhere, just patches of snow dotted around. Visibility was minimal, 20 yards at most, when the wind blew a bit stronger and monetarily cleared some of the fog and it was noticeably colder here than it had been even at the bottom of this final lift.
Blue skies and spectators.
I'm not sure which causes which but they seem to occur together.
You may notice that I am not in my usual XCRacer/Scimitar team kit. These are instead the colours of Team Romeo Racing, worn in tribute to Kane Vandenberg who was tragically killed shortly before the 2013 24hr World Championship
This was a very good question. We could see the broken undergrowth where he had gone, but nothing beyond that, as far as we could tell it was pretty much vertical, practically impossible to climb at the best of times, never mind in full armour and carrying a 40lb DH bike. A discussion ensued of the likely options, but in the absence of a rope they were all abandoned. We could just about see the river behind him so directed him to go that way and then wade along it to his right until he crossed the track further down. I’m sure he wouldn’t be penalised for missing part of the course in the circumstances. As he was unhurt we just left him to it, we could hear him for quite some time fighting his was through the ferns and brambles. We remained there a while longer, shouting encouragement and a warning as the last of the non-qualifiers made their way down one by one in various bedraggled states and with their bikes in various states of disrepair.