Taking on the Megavalanche | Total Women's Cycling

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From Mediocre to Mega: Taking on the Megavalanche?

Over a thousand riders, launching themselves en masse from the snow-covered peak of a French mountain. Multiple routes, trails, and line choices. 2,000 metres of arm aching, finger clenching vertical decent. 30 km of lung busting riding. Several hours of hard, technical, relentless rocky descending.

This is the Megavalanche.

Yes, those are mountain bikers. Yes, that is the top of a mountain. Yes, that is a piste. Image copyright DirtTV

It’s a crazy, amazing spectacle, and something I’ve loved watching and following since I first started mountain biking, which by all accounts wasn’t really very long ago. Five years in fact.

That’s certainly not a long time riding compared to a lot of other women, and in particular other women who work in the bike industry – and compared to the pros, barely the blink of an eye. I am not a natural, but I love riding, and I’m learning all the time.

Which makes the next bit all the more interesting. The organisers of the Megavalanche approached Total Women’s Cycling to see if one of us would like to take part in the event, and I found myself thinking – what if?

What if I decided to give it a go? What if I had something like that to aim for? Something big to motivate me to push my riding (and shift the stubborn extra portions of Christmas turkey).

Could I, a rider who tends to get freaked out on trail centre features I know I could probably do if I was a bit more gung-ho, get good enough to ride an event I’ve been in awe of for quite some time.

Could I do THAT?

What’s it like?

Obviously the first step is a bit more research. Is this realistically something I might have a chance at, or would it be the equivalent of signing up for the Red Bull Rampage (which I will NOT be doing – see why here).

The Megavalanche has been running for over 10 years, and has been described in various terms but is basically a down hill mountain bike endurance race. It’s gained a cult status as one of THE races to try if you’re a mountain biker.

Lots of the top pro riders in the world have done it; Rachel Atherton, Tracy Moseley, Anka Martin and French rider Anne Caroline Chausson – who has won the women’s race every year since 2009!

Homework time

There are a few ways to research this, and one of those is the hundreds of go-pro films that abound online. I grabbed a few videos at random and settled down for a watch.

My first thoughts are ‘Actually, a lot of it looks okay – rough, technical, but not ‘oh my GAWD’. My boyfriend helpfully chips in at this point with ‘don’t forget that video always flattens things out – it’s steeper than it looks there’. Thanks.

Step two – and probably a better gauge of what it’s like – is to talk to some people who have actually done the event. So I pinged off a few emails, and the helpful responses flooded back.

I mentioned to Anna Glowinski, of AnaNichoola fame, that I was considering it.

“I truly believe pretty much anyone can do the Mega – it was my first ever downhill race in the days when I didn’t even really know what downhill was! It’s just how fast you go that makes it gnarly – it’s all rollable. The first day and race day will undoubtedly be overwhelming, but everyone is in the same boat. Do it!”

This was a reassuring reaction. Maybe this really is something I could do?

Katy Curd got back to me next;

“The mega has to be the race on everyone’s bucket list whether you race or not. I was definitely nervous the first time I did it but more because I didn’t really know what to expect. The riding there is amazing though. There is nothing on either of the qualifying track or the main race track that is too hard to ride.

You just have to remain calm and confident and try to focus on your riding rather than the 100’s of riders around you. It really is a fun race and if you can make it to the bottom in one piece you know you’ve done a good job!”

Katy Curd is herself about to embark upon the 2014 Downhill World Cup circuit, so I did think to myself that what Katy thought was rideable might look a tad different to me. (She says ‘small drop’ I say ‘cliff’?).

But she too was really positive about how great an experience it was. Apart from the ‘in one piece’ bit.

There’s less snow further down the mountain – but it’s not exactly much easier! Image copyright Ben Winder/Dirt

And finally, some great comments from Tina, a lady I’d met on a women’s specific MTB holiday in the Alps a while back. She’d also done it a few years previously, and had this to say.

“Basically the Mega is a lot of fun. Its length is probably the hardest aspect – we’re talking nothing short of an hour of descending, and most likely a fair amount more. But when you get to the bottom in one piece, it’s such a great feeling of relief and accomplishment.

You’ll get to meet and ride with other women from all over the world – and the chances are you’ll want to do it again!”

I like the sound of the meeting and riding with other women – though I did note that ominous ‘in one piece’ line popping up again. The consensus seems to be that it’s hard work, but also good fun.

So it seems – well – like it might be doable? Not easy, not a walk in the park, and not to be taken lightly – but the greatest achievements are the ones you have to really work for, right?

What do you think? Shall I go for it?


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