Dave Morgan of Team Wight Mountain, and good friend Rob Holland have just returned from competing in the 17th Edition of the Megavalanche race In Alpe DHuez, near the Swiss Boarder of France
Tagged as ‘The Longest Downhill mountain bike race in the world’ This race starts above the town of Alpe D’Huez at 3,300m altitude on Pic Blanc, passes through the towns of Alpe D’Huez, Oz en Oisans and some 32km later, finishes in Allemont at 750m above sea level.
With 2000 Entrants, Riders first have to compete in a shorter 16km ‘Qualifying Race.’ For Qualifying Riders were randomly put into groups of 200. Racing from the Dome des Petites Rousses at 2810m altitude along a steep, tough, downhill track of rock, snow, jumps, and bermed corners, to finish in the Village of Huez at 1470m altitude. Only the fastest 35 riders from each group of 200 qualify for the Official Megavalanche Race.
Qualifying Races: Holland was still battling with a shoulder injury sustained during the first day of practice. He got a taste of how physically and technically demanding this event was, placing 110th in his group of 200, with a time of 33:34mins a great result for his first time competing. His time was good enough to qualify for Group No.4 the Mega Affinity.
Morgan was back for his 3rd instalment of Megavalanche, and rode extremely well despite crashing on the snow, crossing the line in 25:10mins placing 20th in his group of 200. Just 3:47mins behind the fastest qualifier of the event. Meaning he was good enough to race with the fastest 350 riders in the World in the Official Group No.1 the Megavalanche Race.
The longer 32km race brought many challenges to all competitors, just walking at 3,300m altitude gets you out of breath. Making racing a mountain bike a serious assault on your lungs. This is also a test of equipment, bike handling skills, fitness, strength, luck, and above all your determination to succeed.
In Group No.4 The Mega Affinity, Holland (Still suffering from the shoulder injury sustained during practice) Rode against the clock on the same track as the Megavalanche but without the craziness of a 350 rider “mass start”. Tackling all the obstacles along the way, he finished in a respectable 1hr42minutes. Placing 231st in Group No.4.
In Group No.1 The Megavalanche, Morgan was placed on the 7th Row of the Grid (25 riders per row, handlebars overlapping) for the ‘Mass Start’ upon Pic Blanc, just behind legends of the sport: Rene Wildhaber, Nico Vouliouz and Remy Abslon.
Low over night temperatures meant the soft snow from the previous day had now turned into thick ice, with the wind giving a chill factor of well below zero, keeping warm and standing on the start grid was a challenge in itself. The race started with many riders opting to run the fist 100m of steep ice. A fall on the ice, followed by a number of ‘over the handlebars’ crashes on the snow lost Morgan a lot of places all within the first 5 minutes of racing, But some impressive riding followed, with riders being passed on the Sarenne Glacier, and some fearless line choices through the rocky single-track. But Fatigue started to set in at the mid-way point as fitter riders passed him on the steep climbs. He kept pushing those pedals, especially through the rough technical descents. A few more riders were passed through the steep woodland of Allemont followed by a sprint for the finish line. It was finally time to rest, eat and drink. A check of the results board showed a time of 1hr 6 minutes and 263rd place… 24minutes behind the Winner: Remy Abslon of France, an Expert in the discipline of “Enduro Downhill Mountain bike Races” and previous winner of this Event.
Well done to both Riders for taking part and giving it their all, in what is a unique and crazy race. Dave Morgan who turned 30yrs old this week (18th july) Celebrated his achievement in the race, just 32hrs after crossing the Megavalanche finish line, by cycling his road bike up the famous “21 Bends of Alpe D’huez”, a 14km long ascent from Bourg D’Oisans at 720m altitude up to Alpe D’huez at 1850m altitude. This climb is also featured as the finish of ‘Stage 19’ of the Tour de France, on Friday 22nd July.
Report by Dave Morgan