Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

Jul 10, 2016
by Ben Winder  



Race day in Alpe d’Huez. Atop the hill this morning, a lot of riders were struggling with nerves. Standing side by side with almost 350 riders, the nerves were quite understandable. The sun was out in force and softening up the glacier pretty quickly, which added another element of uncertainty for the riders.

Remy Absalon had the pressure of the number 1 plate, but lived up to expectations and took the win. He’s had some experience here, making this his 5th Megavalanche victory. Second placed Damien Oton was pretty happy just to make it to the bottom. He’s raced here a few times before but hasn’t made it to the finish line until today.

We stopped for a moment today to have a quick chat with George Edwards, the organiser of the Megavalanche.



4 Questions With George Edwards, Megavalanche Organiser


Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day
It's the 22nd Megavalanche, what keeps bringing you back to Alpe d'Huez?
It's the best place for an event like this, it has one of the longest runs in the world. There is the fantastic bike park area, the lifts, and a big team of people who know what they're doing when it comes to put on an event. The icing on the cake is the glacier, it really adds value to the event. The event has been built around the hillside here.

We see a lot of events popping up that have similarities to the Mega.
The Megavalanche is like the Olympics of Mountain Biking, it's influenced the sport. When the Mega was created in 1995, there was a cross country bike and a heavy downhill bike, over the years we have seen bikes more and more suited to this race, I think the evolution of the bikes has had something to do with the Mega.

What was new for 2016? We've spent a lot of time working on the qualifying track, we have refurbished about half of the track. We will continue working on the tracks for future years.

And for the future of the Mega?
Every year we focus on improving the race tracks, we want everyone to enjoy the race. From the pro riders to the amateur riders, we want to cater for all the competitors. The other reason for this is that we want to make it as safe as possible, which is very important to us. We would also like to include more races and events during the week of the Megavalanche.




Pic Blanc the start far away in the distance.
Pic Blanc, the start far away in the distance.

Hundreds of riders line the start.
Hundreds of riders line the start.

Excitement fills the air at the top as the helicopter buzz s overhead and the music gets louder.
Excitement fills the air at the top as the helicopter roar's overhead and the music gets louder.

And they re off Remy Absalon took the holeshot but with riders hot on his tail he was far from safe.
And they're off! Remy Absalon took the holeshot, but with riders hot on his tail he was far from safe.

The sea of riders poured down the glacier.
The sea of riders poured down the glacier.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

Camille Servant overtook Absalon on the glacier but this was the beginning of a battle between the two.
Camille Servant overtook Absalon on the glacier, but this was the beginning of a battle between the two.

On the open road
On the open road...

It soon became apparent that the glacier was super soft ruts formed quickly and it became pretty hard to carry speed.
It soon became apparent that the glacier was super soft, ruts formed quickly and it became pretty hard to carry speed.

These wavy lines show you just how hard it was to control the bike.
These wavy lines show you just how hard it was to control the bike.

But still the riders powered on through the glacier the condition of the glacier caught riders off-guard as for the women s race on Saturday it was rock hard and super icy.
But still the riders powered on through the glacier, the condition of the glacier caught riders off-guard as for the women's race on Saturday, it was rock hard and super icy.

The trail then opened up into wonderful single track where Camille still held the lead.
The trail then opened up into wonderful single track, where Camille still held the lead.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

It s super fun flowy trail but with a few dangerous rocks which on the side which could easily catch a pedal or a derailleur.
It's super fun flowy trail but there are a few dangerous rocks on the side which could easily catch a pedal or a derailleur.

The trail then drops through steep rocky sections which are coated in dust.
The trail then drops through steep rocky sections, which are coated in dust.

Remy Absalon had the power on the climbs and over took Camille Servant.
Remy Absalon had the power on the climbs and overtook Camille Servant.

Cedric Ravanel finished in 5th place today.
Cedric Ravanel finished in 5th place today.

Matti Lehikoinen powering through some alpine dust and into 11th position.
Matti Lehikoinen powering through some alpine dust and into 11th position.

The dust became a pretty big issue for you riders that were in a close pursuit.
The dust became a pretty big issue for the riders that were in a close pursuit.

The sun was still only just creeping over the big mountains.
The sun was still only just creeping over the big mountains.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

Damien Oton hunting down Camillie Servant and Remy Absalon.
Damien Oton hunting down Camillie Servant and Remy Absalon.

The race here is littered with numerous climbs some much longer than others.
The race here is littered with numerous climbs, some much longer than others.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

A bird s eye look at Damien Oton.
A bird's eye view of Damien Oton.

Fans littered the side of the exciting sections of track.
Fans littered the side of the exciting sections of track.

Francois Bailly Maitre picked up a few places in the wood section and finished in 3rd place.
Francois Bailly Maitre picked up a few places in the woods section and finished in 3rd place.

The trail then drops out of sight into the trees we caught up with the race at the finish line.
The trail then drops out of sight into the trees, we caught up with the race at the finish line.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

And the first rider into the finish line was Remy Absalon making it his 5th Megavalanche win.
And the first rider into the finish line was Remy Absalon, making it his 5th Megavalanche win.

He was closely followed by Damien Oton who was over the moon just to make it down the entire track.
He was closely followed by Damien Oton, who was over the moon just to make it down the entire track.

3rd placed Francois Bailly Maitre.
3rd place finisher Francois Bailly Maitre.

Camille Servant was leading for a large portion of this race the woods got the better of him and he finished up in 7th position.
Camille Servant was leading for a large portion of this race, the woods got the better of him and he finished up in 7th position.

Liam Moynihan got to the finish in 14th place and was signing autographs within 30 seconds.
Liam Moynihan got to the finish in 14th place and was signing autographs within 30 seconds.

Cedric Ravanel.
Cedric Ravanel.

Kilian Bron gave it everything he had left . Nico Quere knackered right .
Kilian Bron (left) gave it everything he had. Nico Quere, knackered.

Matti Lehikoinen.
Matti Lehikoinen.

Liam Moynihan.
Liam Moynihan.

Cedric Gracia was here on his first Mega and finished in 18th place today.
Cedric Gracia was here on his first Mega, and finished in 18th place today.

Darren Evans made it down on his hardtail today with a ten minute delay off the side of one of the steep banks and a run in with a bush. Nursing his beaten body in the stream by the finish line.
Darren Evans made it down on his hardtail with a ten-minute delay today. He took off the side of one of the steep banks and a had a run in with a bush. He was nursing his beaten body in the stream by the finish line.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

Thomas Lapeyrie.
Thomas Lapeyrie.

Many riders here are out to cross something off the bucket list. Here s Alex Evans back to the 9-5 tomorrow.
Many riders here are out to cross something off the bucket list. Here's Alex Evans, back to the 9-5 tomorrow.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

Ben Deakin.
Ben Deakin.

Megavalanche 2016 - Race Day

Number 1.
Number 1.

1st: Remy Absalon
2nd: Damien Oton
3rd: Francois Bailly Maitre
4th: Gustav Wildhaber
5th Cedric Ravanel

That s all for this year see you next time.
That's all for this year, see you next time.


MENTIONS: @BWinder




55 Comments

  • 51 0
 Props to Darren Evans for riding a hard tail down! I'd say he has huge balls, but they're likely still on the hill somewhere.
  • 3 1
 Having also raced the mega as well this year on a hardtail, hats off to Evans for the time he put it. It was brutally hard on a hardtail, id only recommend it if if you have a loose connection upstairs!
  • 38 0
 Shout out to PB staff/writers. Would make my day if you could do a run down/ bike expose on Darren Evans hardtail from todays event. I believe he rides a Stanton. Please!
  • 5 0
 Yes please, i am curious too. A Stanton is quite high on my wishlist once the OnOne 456 fails.
  • 14 0
 Amazing that it's the first Mega for CG. Even more amazing is finishing top 20. Props to all the riders. Definitely a bucket list race to do, but I cringe to think of the injured riders
  • 13 0
 By the way...a guy called Jean-Pierre Bruni coming in 126th in the Megavalanche race in the Masters over 50 class...
  • 9 1
 Can't confirm that's Loic's father,but he's one of the early 90's french DH best racers,along with Mega boss George Edwards,by the way.
  • 11 0
 I want to do it one day.
  • 18 0
 Then do it. Do the full week, then you'll just have a full week of good riding (training). I soon decided to not be be too competitive because the trip to Alpe d'Huez was so tough (with a big unstable bag with a bike, tools, spares and body armour rushing from train to train to bus... to get there) that I thought I'd never make it back home if I were injured Wink . But during the qualifiers I entered that first corner much more in front than I planned so I backed off a little after that. I'd be taken over otherwise anyway, but then on some more sketchy terrain. The area is beautiful, the event is great and the people in Alpe d'Huez are so happy to have you there. I broke my goggles in official training or qualifiers and the people in some ski shop improvised a free fix for me, rather than try and sell me something new.

So yeah, go. Set your own goals. You can be competitive if you want. If you don't qualify well, you end up in the Mega Affinity and you won't be clocked anyway. But if you are competitive and do well, then you're riding against some big heroes.
  • 2 1
 @vinay: You only get to ride on the glacier if you qualify is that right? I would love to ride on the glacier but even without that it must be amazing. Maybe in a year or three I'll engineer the time to do it.
  • 4 0
 @jaame: you all get to ride the glacier.
But you don't get to do a mass start at the top if u qualify outside top 100 in each qualify group. So it's just a ride down the track to get a time n not a race really for them.
There are 2qualification groups first 50 from each qualify get into the main mega race on the Sunday. 2nd 50 get into the mini mega race on Saturday that starts after the women's race.
Wish I could do it again, but think I definitely used up a lifetime's luck getting away without being broken last time!
  • 3 0
 @scar4me: that sounds better to me. I know that's part of the attraction but I don't really like pinning it in the vicinity of other riders, especially ones who are racing against me and that I don't know. Safety first, stay away from me.

I'm going to do it in 2018.
  • 4 1
 @jaame: Cool! Yeah, you all get to ride the same track. I rode in 2008 and I think that was the first year when they introduced the Mega Challenger and Mega Affinity. Qualifications are in blocks of 400 riders. The top 100 qualified for the main event, the next 100 qualified for the Mega Challenger (also clocked, if I recall correctly) and the other 200 ride the Mega Affinity. Women start in a different block, at least back then. Back in 2008 the weather on race day was so bad that the helicopters couldn't make it all the way to 3300 so it wasn't considered safe for us to start there. So we started at the qualifier start and switched in Alpe d'Huez for the remainder of the track of the main event. So we actually didn't race the glacier back then. Personally I thought the qualifier start was a lot harder with big, steep rocks to navigate through. Of course we spent more than enough time on the glacier during the week of training. It is not too bad. You see that last picture with a lot of snow? At the top you see everyone riding a decent descent and the drop to their left for a pretty intimidating steep section where everyone crashes. But it is only intimidating the first time. It is soft and slippery, you'll be fine Smile .

Now that it has become so common for people to carry cameras on their ride, it shouldn't be too hard to find recordings on youtube or so of the entire race. It may help put things in perspective. Yes there is snow and big rocks. But well before Alpe d'Huez (1800m or so) the big rocks are gone and you can rely on your UK skills of riding switchbacks with mud and roots.
  • 3 0
 This year is was the following:
1-35 Main Race
36-70 Challengers
71-105 Amateurs
105-last of each quali-run rode Affinity

This means if you have a slight clue of riding and can avoid injury and mechanicals in quali you will be doing a mass-start race.
  • 4 0
 @jaame: It was my first time at it this year, glad to say I've done it as it was on my mtb bucket list but I wouldn't do it again... I was hoping to be fairly competitive and aim to qualify for the main race on Sunday but two crashes and resulting mechanicals in quali due to other riders put me in the mega amateur cat. Once the main race had gone the glacier was just slush and impossible to ride I didn't put a single pedal stroke on the snow!! After that being stuck behind slow riders all the way down meant my arms were f*cked from braking so much!! All the decent features on the track people were walking down too... Slower riders are supposed to let faster ones past but literally no one moves for you even if you're screaming at them so you have to take risky lines to pass them and that's where things go wrong! (I fell 10ft down a cliff edge actually thought I was going to die) In the end I just gave up trying and stopped on the fire roads leaving as bigger gaps as possible so I could actually enjoy the track. It's massively luck of the drawer at the top as who gets to the front, the course is brilliant and the woods are awesome especially but not something I'm keen to do again with thousands of other riders. But that's just my perspective / experience others absolutely love it!!
  • 2 0
 @oliverody: I raced it for the first time last year. Was hoping for the main race and on for it in the quali, but a puncture about half way down put an end to that. Ended up qualifying for the amateur race too, but was on the front row! Got a good start, was possibly even leading for a bit, but a couple of crashes in the slush and getting beasted on some of the climbs meant that I finished 4th overall, 3rd in the Masters and a chance to stand on a Megavalanche podium and earning a medal. Felt like I had the course to myself for most of the race.

So similar to your story, just with a bit more luck I suppose!

Some of my mates were out there again this year, and I've been super jealous. Definitely would do it again.
  • 2 0
 @oliverody: sorry you had a bad experience, but what did you expect? There's riders from all levels of ability. Rule for me and my friends usually is to yell 'rider' at people 3 times and if people don't react we force our way around them. It's part of the game there Smile
  • 2 0
 @Muckal: oh my gosh. That sounds reasonable. Do you need a racing licence?
  • 1 0
 @jaame: no.
  • 1 0
 @jaame: nope, everyone starts from the glacier, just on different days (saturday/sunday) and on different waves of riders. The only year the start on saturday was from different place (same as quali start) was 2 years ago, precisely the year I participated. It was due to really harsh climatic conditions on the glacier, like -10 celcius and hell of a strong wind. So that year saturday race started from same place as qualifications. Next day they were luckly enough to have a good weather and started from the glacier. But the race ended in Alp d'Huez instead of Allemont as usual due to the harsh conditions in the bottom, hell of a lot of mud. Actually we renamed the event as "MudAvalanche" due to the gargantuan amount of sticky mud on the 3rd section, starting on the singletrail after the long climb, until Allemont, it was non stop pushing, carrying the bike.
  • 1 0
 @russianyaz: That year must be the one I was reading about when only the top guys rode the glacier. I can't wait to do it.
  • 1 0
 @peachos: yeah its total luck of the drawer as I said I would've loved it getting out front and being able to enjoy the track as it was awesome but if you get stuck at the back you're stuffed!
  • 1 0
 @Muckal: yeah I get your point and believe me I almost lost my voice shouting at people the whole way down but I didn't feel happy in pushing other riders off course and endangering them as it's not cool either. Too nice I guess!
  • 1 0
 @oliverody: for sure it's not cool or nice, but the way i see it everybody who rides the race knows that it is a race. The organisers even point out that you need to let faster riders pass.
  • 6 1
 Sounds like the ultimate place to run plus size tires, I wouldnt go full fat but I feel like it would definitely have an advantage over normal size tires in the snow and slush, but not so much in the bike Park. But the start is very important at mega.
  • 2 0
 Lots of places to puncture though. Not that I am jumping on the "anti" plus size but when Soho Bikes did a test at BPW they struggled to get a single, complete run down the DH track without a flat tyre.
As manufacturers get their heads around that problem we will definitely see more at the event though
  • 6 0
 They all look so buggered! .......and sooo happy too! Respect to Darren Evans on the Stanton! Post race ice bath. Love it!
  • 8 0
 Greatest race of all!
  • 6 0
 This is MOUNTAINbiking !
  • 5 0
 and the prize goes to...........CEDRIC GRACIA. 18th place and riding like a madman.
  • 2 0
 And with a mechanical, broke his chain.
  • 6 0
 Legend. Walking down the Bromont, Quebec WC DH track in '99 shortly after heavy, pouring rain, pondering how we were gonna jump a strange off camber log drop into a very off camber greasy area in some tight trees. No one is practicing cuz the conditions suck. Cedric comes flying down the ice slick track, jumps the log, gaps about 10 feet out past the off camber section and into the next corner at mach speed. We stood slack jawed as mere mortals while the mud master gave a lesson on how it is done. Uh, problem solved... if you're CG!!! Massive respect to CG, who continues to race for the love of it and is still fast as hell. Inspiring. Thank you PB for the sweet coverage of the Mega!
  • 4 0
 Hope is going to be a Re-Live video from the head of the race from this elicopter sight...
  • 3 0
 Look at those people faces at the finish line. Exausted and happy as a kid with a new toy. That's the Megavalanche for you. Nothing compares to it.
  • 1 0
 Great race. I had so much fun at the event. Big thanks to the people who arranged this event you did a great job! Just one thing, maybe wait until all heats are finished before starting the medal ceremony? It's nice to be a part of everything even if your not racing in the absolute best heat.
  • 2 0
 Great photos! capture and sum up the race really well, The glacier would have been a bit different riding at the front rather than the back! All good tho, awesome to be part of!
  • 2 0
 Damn, 5th win? Remy is a bad ass when it comes to the Megavalanche~

Will they ever televise this race? Red bull should.
  • 2 0
 What bikes are these guys riding?
  • 2 0
 A 160 Bike is the weapon of choice.
  • 4 0
 @Muckal: .......or a hardtail, apparently!
  • 1 0
 @slowrider73: only if you're harder than the rocks Smile Riding a hardtail there is giving you quite a shake, not good for you third teeth Smile
  • 2 0
 a hardtail, sigle speed, won in a masters category few years ago.
  • 1 0
 The winner and 3rd were on 160mm 29"ers (scoot genius LT and bmc trailfox)
Oton used his usual Devinci.
  • 1 0
 @GrandesRoues: Maybe Remy using 27+? It would be quite usefull for this kind of snow isn´t it?
  • 2 0
 Any pics coming on the mega amateur
  • 2 0
 Glad to see they have let over 50's race in the main final again !
  • 1 0
 Beautiful shots!
Taken from a helicopter ?
  • 1 0
 Yeah they have a heli.
  • 1 0
 WOW. Pretty much every photo is a banger
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