Garett Buehler's account
|Last winter I was on the phone with Garett Buehler and we were talking about adventures on a bike to be had. I told him one event that was totally outside of his big mountain freeride adventures that both he and James (Doerfling) should do is Megavalanche. Next was a call to my SR Suntour colleagues on the European front Hoshi Yoshida and Henri Manders to see if we could make this happen. The result has been that both James and Garett had a blast and will most likely try to make the Mega an annual event. Welcome to the Marathon DH scene guys. - Darren Salsbury / SR Suntour|
The journey to the 2012 Mega Avalanche was nothing less than exciting. From the flight over, to the flight home, it was like I had no time to breath from the minute I left my home in Canada. Missing a flight in Frankfurt and being on a complete roller coaster with the airlines - no bags arriving and 4 more hours to drive to Alp d’Huez.
Making a quick stop at the Super Market to stock up on the week’s supply of carbs, beer, and in French fashion, some fine red wine… we climbed the famous stage from the tour de France, and arrived in Alp d’Huez. First impressions on the small alpine village was complete stoke! We were welcomed with keys to our home for the week, and dinner plans with the crew.
It seemed as though every night we were treated to a traditional meal, generally leaving us boded with cheese, beer, and the staple local spirit Chartreuse. We called this Shark tooth 'cause neither myself or James have the ability to pronounce the word properly, and it's strong like a shark bite… we figured it was a well suited name. Everyone was super welcoming and stoked to get to know each another. Without those guys we would have been fish out of water at this event… Giving us important pointers on racing an enduro downhill, and helping us find our bearings and getting ready for this insane event!
Everyday leading up to the event we spent shooting with Hoshi Yoshida or being shown around by SR Suntour shredder Max Schuman. Max had some impressive results in previous years, and after riding with the guy and seeing his fitness level, I was a bit concerned by my freeride background and focus on the creative side of the sport rather than the physical being a bit of a disadvantage in the game of endurance downhill. I was blown away with the elevation and overall length of the course… practicing riding down the glacier and realizing what we had got ourselves into was somewhat amusing to me, but also incredibly exciting, and intriguing to see how things would unfold on race day.
Nights in Alp duez were another exiting part of the journey. When you have 2 Canadians traveling to Europe, you can expect a night or 2 out on the town. Alp d’Huez was no acceptation… it had a great spot to go out, share some pints with fellow racers, and getting to know some of the locals who live the mountain life of Alp d’Huez year round. The town had a pretty cool scene with 1 pub called the “freeride bar” which seemed to be where we would round up for games of fooze ball.
After having a few fun days of shooting, training, and generally riding for fun, the day came when we had to qualify for the event. The theme song which is played in the start gate is my new favorite song, and there cannot be anything that gets you more amped to shred. Out of the start gate I had a decent start and was sitting right up there with the top 5 dudes in my heat. Although the uphill sections were punishing and a bit embarrassing, as more fit people would casually go by, the downhill was loose and exciting the entire time… Riding with a mass amount of people is like riding with all your buddies, and it was cool to finish the qualies in one piece sitting in 15th position which put me in the finals, but also made me release how I need to get off my fat ass and hit the gym!
The finals were interesting! As we had practiced on the glacier later in the day when the snow had become soft from the mid-day sun… early in the morning it was like ice, and I had no idea how it was going to grip. Being in the middle of the pack I was a bit concerned of getting in a pile up and sliding along the ice. I took it easy off the gate thankfully, as there was a massive pile up involving Rene Wildhaber and a crew of the top enduro dudes in the front of the pack. I made a smart line choice and popped up and around them which set me somewhere in the top 30… I was stoked, but still had the longest decent of my life ahead of me… cruising the glacier, and then trying to ride safe and conservative to save energy… things were going good until… I got a flat… There I am scrambling to get my tire off, thankful of the Q-Loc axel system the SR Suntour Durolux offers, my wheel came off effortlessly… 150 people must of blown by me by the time I was back in the race… after another 5 minutes of racing and another flat. But this time I was out of tubes and had no chance. It was a bummer, but a great experience and something which has opened my eyes and inspired me into a whole new genre of mountain biking… the inspiration made this trip all worth its while.
After sharing one last meal with the Crew, it was time to travel home. Although it was not the most successful mission, it was fun, and that is why we ride. I won’t forget those initial impressions on how gnarly this event is, and the memories of any journey are priceless… With a 30 hour journey home, the adventure was not over and after spending 70 hours in the airport, due to weather delays and missed connection flights, I arrived home with unforgettable memories.