Is This The Most Glamorous MTB Race In The World?

The Megavelanche is one race of which I assume most people have heard, and no doubt they have the same mental image of it as I did. This will probably consist of bright blue cloudless skies, the sun blazing down on the glacier as they plummet down the side of the mountain. The race is of course based in the French resort of Alpe d’Huez, which is home to the rich and famous during the skiing season but is taken over by some of the world’s top mountain bikers for a week every July.

Having decided that the rain was unlikely to stop any time soon I eventually dragged myself out of the van and into the quagmire of the campsite. I spent a short while huddled from the rain and biting wind as I got the bike ready.

 The magnificent view from the ski lift

The top lift, from DMC2 to the top of Pic Blanc, was shut due to the weather, we couldn’t even see the summit through the rain and fog, so there would be no chance of getting a helicopter up there were anyone to hurt themselves. I took the lift up as high as I could and set off down the qualifying course. The track had deteriorated a lot since yesterday; where there were no rocks there was a lot of standing water and where there were rocks the mud had been dragged across them robbing them of what little grip they would have had.

I saw one spectacular crash off the boardwalk section, someone lost his rear wheel, overcorrected, and then slide off to the right. He bounced off the first boulder still holding on to his bike, but this then flung him upwards before he came down on the second, arms and legs flailing this time, rolled over another boulder and nearly stopped before going over the ledge. Nearly. He then fell about 15ft, landing heavily on the rocks right next to the crash mat which had been put there to protect those who fell further down the trail. Then his bike landed on him. A couple of us started climbing down towards him, but other than a bent brake rotor he was pretty much unscathed.

 There is everything here from proper DH bikes to little hardtails
No idea who this is.

I made it down pretty much in one piece, just one tumble off the traverse below the main lift, it was a very wet clay-like soil which was rather difficult to steer on.

Being a glutton for punishment I took the lift back up for another go. However, this time at the point where the race route crossed the qualifying I took the race track, along with a couple of new friends I had met in the lift. There was a bit of a climb to start with and then we headed into the woods on the far side of the mountain.

I can’t go into too much detail here, the human mind has a marvellous capacity for blotting out traumatic experiences from it’s memory. The mud was absolutely indescribable, I’ll resist making any comparisons to the trenches of the First World War, the usual similes for this kind of mud, although we had nearly reached the end before we came across an American.

I don't know who he is either

There was one particularly notable descent, I suppose you have all seen the videos of people sliding down the glacier, standing upright next to the bikes, using the bike to balance as they ski down on their feet, I can report that it is a lot less fun doing this on the mud.

Myself and a couple of others seemed to be coping better than most and avoiding the worst effects of the mud, we could still ride most of it. The majority of bikes were clogging up in every possible way, around the fork braces, the front mech and bottom bracket area, the top of the rear wheel, the rear mechs. The wheels just stopped turning, but the amount of accumulated mud made them far too heavy to carry for any distance on that sort of terrain, so people were left with little option but to dig it out as best they could with sticks. Those of us who did have decent mud clearance were of course enormously sympathetic to their plight and refrained from laughing and taking the Mickey in any way.

Due to the mud and the rain we were starting to struggle in the motivation department and so called it a day when we got to Oz rather than the bottom in Allemont, and got the lift back up. I wonder what tomorrow will have in store, hopefully some sun but the forecast doesn’t look good.

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