Earlier in July, Pro MTB rider Hannah Barnes took on the 2013 Megavalanche, one of the hardest challenges on the MTB race calendar. Placing 13th last year was no mean feat on this tiring, technical mass start event. The question is, how would she fare this year?
Although challenging, the race is run in one of the most beautiful alpine locations and has wonderful riding terrain. Participants start off on snow-covered moonscapes at the top of the mountain, passing through open alpine meadows and forested singletrack in one long, exciting ride to the valley floor.
Based in Fort William, one of the mountain biking capitals of the UK, Hannah has extensive experience of numerous disciplines. She’s ridden downhill, xc, marathon races and off-road triathlons. This year, her focus is on enduro, and though the Megavalanche isn’t an enduro race event per se, it’s an excellent test of all the skills needed to excel at the format.
Her experience of the 2013 event was captured on video. The full edit is coming out shortly, so here’s a little teaser to whet your appetite.
What is the Megavalanche?
One of the most brutal races in MTB, the Megavalanche takes places annually in July in the resort of Alpe D’Huez. It’s high on the to-do list for mountain bikers who like to push themselves but have some fun along the way.
Over 1400 participants from over 20 countries compete, including some of the top UK riders like Hannah Barnes, Katy Winton and Aimee Dix, with Dan Atherton and Joe Barnes from the male side of things.
Most riders start en masse on a piste at the top of the Pic Blanc, in waves of 400 at a time. There is a separate race for women, but it’s the same course and the same format. If you have ever skied or snowboarded at Alpe D’Huez, you may recognise the piste in question as a steep black run. Keep the snow and switch to a bike and you begin to see why this race is deemed difficult.
Although some of the pro riders can make the descent in under an hour, it takes the majority of riders several hours to make it down. With over 3000 meters vertical descent and a course that’s over 25km long, you can see why.
It’s not all downhill either – there are traverses and climbs, which means that riders from many disciplines, including DH, XC and enduro, are all in with a fighting chance.
Qualifying takes place on the Friday, with the Mega Ladies race on the Saturday and the Megavalanche on the Sunday. As the races finish, the town fills with knackered but triumphant riders, sipping on well deserved cold beers.
The Megavalanche Alpe D’Huez is open to anyone, though you do need a good level of technical ability and fitness. Although you don’t need a race license, you will need to present a medical certificate showing you are fit to race.
Entries usually open in the January for the event in July, and more information on the event is available from the Megavalanche website.