Megavalanche – Alpe D’Huez – With Aidan Bishop
2014 Megavalanche, a one of a kind race that is one for the MTB bucketlist. Held in the French alpine resort of Alpe D’Huez, with the main race starting up on the glacier at 3300m altitude with 350 riders per final lining up and starting together on snow and ice finishing an hour later down in the valley below.
It is a true test of any riders overall ability to race top to bottom in one piece, surviving the obstacles of racing at altitude, riding snow, rocks, avoiding other racers, climbing hills, missing trees, you name it this race has it!
Written by Aidan Bishop
This years edition is the 20th year for the Megavalanche and it still attracts 1800 male and 100 female racers, so it really is infamous. As such an iconic event it is more than just a race, you can make a holiday of it, coming out and booking your lift pass with you entry for the whole week in the run up to raceday. Normally the alpine weather and scenery treat you to days of high quality views and riding…..this year however was an exception! Consecutive poor weather made conditions pretty grim, with low cloud, rain and some thunder everyday the week was literally a wash out, with the welcome exception of Friday when the sun came out and clouds parted for the qualifying races which was very welcomed. The tracks were wet through with the wooded sections becoming a struggle to get down without your bike clogging to a stop from the claggy mud sticking to the wheels, so everyday was a case of ride one or some section of some of the tracks then get back, wash up and get warm.
With the finals starting up on the glacier there is limited space and so only room for the 350 riders per final. There are 4 finals available to qualify for and qualifying races for everyone to take part in to earn their place. So each qualifier, 1st and 2nd place qualify for front row, 3rd and 4th make 2nd row for final, and so on. Saturday hosts the womens final followed by the B and D final, with Sunday hosting the A and C final.
This being my 4th time racing the Mega, I know the tracks and what to expect and so I wasn’t riding for too long each day as you normally would in dry conditions. Monday I revisited the qualifier track, Tuesday we tried to go to the top and ride the glacier but it was closed. Wednesday I didn’t ride as a pretty nasty crash (caught on my ION camera) left me with bruised thumb, wrist, chest and knee! Thursday we could only ride the qualifier track again and Friday was qualifying day.
With the weather being poor and visibility being a safety issue for the organisers the qualifying race start line was brought down the mountain to start below the snow level (yes it had snowed lots at the top….in July!). The problem with this was it meant a narrow graveltrack start line and then they decided to include a chicane 60m after the start meaning 20 riders were sprinting for a gap wide enough for two! Unfortunately I didn’t quite get there quick enough to get through unscathed and so people from my left came in and took a bunch of us down, me being caught in the middle of it.
What seemed like an age later I had untangled my cables from another guys bike and got going again to find my brake lever badly out of position, and couple of bangs whilst pedalling and it was useable but strange. From here it was a case of overtaking as many riders as I could when I could to salvage an A final position from the wreckage of my qualifying heat. I used my ION camera facing rearwards to try and capture the highlights of the race, unfortunately in the scrum my camera got knocked and so the angle isn’t ideal but still managed to capture parts of the race. I managed to finish in 12th position (the first 23 make the A final) so a midpack start for Sundays final means if I want a result I will have a lot of overtaking to do early on!