Sun, Snow and Skids - Nukeproof at the Megavalanche 2016

Dec 10, 2016
by Nukeproof  
Nukeproof at the Mega

You can ride all the terrain in the world and experience the thrill of competition, be it against the clock or elbow-to-elbow with your fellow competitor, but nothing can prepare your senses for the Megavalanche in Alpe D'Huez, France. Perched high on a glacier, bike at the ready while staring down the barrel of the first straight with the intermingled sounds of a helicopter buzzing overhead and the pulsing beats of some euro pop blasting from a distant sound system while your feet slowly sink into the melting snow below, the knowledge that this is not your average bike race hits you like a brick wall. Adding to this maelstrom of madness, you're also surrounded by 400 similarly suited and booted riders who are all thinking the same thing you are... Welcome to the Megavalanche, the god-father of mass-start enduro races.

Nukeproof at the Mega
Bringing one of the original prototypes of the much loved 26" Nukeproof Mega, back to its spiritual home was a sight for sore eyes.

This race has long-standing ties to Nukeproof, where, in 2009 we first took a prototype all-mountain machine to test its limits. After all, in 2009, this was and still is one of the most demanding events on the calendar. While the Nukeproof Mega has evolved over the years that followed, it's also safe to say we've been looking for an excuse to return and after the recent launch of the new Mega 275 and Mega 290, 2016 was the year to take the Mega back to the slopes from which it came.

Nukeproof at the Mega
The vital ingredients of machine fit to take on the Megavalanche.

After over 14-hours of driving from the UK, ascending the 21 hairpins leading Alp D'Huez village certainly got our pulses racing. Considering the high volume of riders crammed into such a small space, there is an eerie calm early in the week. The awesome weather, groomed trails, lack of queues for the gondola, good food, and a little "drink" were the perfect lead up to what was to come. After a few days of "acclimatizing to the altitude", riding the course we believed would make up the qualifying race (which turned out to be totally wrong) and just having fun drifting in the snow on the Pic Blanc glacier whetted our appetite...

Nukeproof at the Mega
The lounge, AKA the workshop.

We could pretend and say we had months of hard training to get race fit and ready for this, but that would be a lie. The usual local rides were mixed with the team trying to discover that competitive spirit. Ali (our brand manager) and Rob (marketing manager) raced a couple of enduro races with Dale (Nukeproof engineer) and Ian (our office manager) racing the IDMS and First Tracks races in Ireland. But the usual day job and office vending machine hampered our dreams of being pro riders. Onwards and upwards...

Nukeproof at the Mega
The dining room, AKA the parts bin

To add extra speed and style to our office team we invited our longest serving athlete, Matti Lehikoinen, and our Irish wild man and enduro racer, Kelan Grant. One of the fastest men with a camera bag, Laurence Crossman-Emms, also joined us to document the trip on film. As with any trip with multiple riders and bikes, the beautiful Alpine villa, which in winter is probably inhabited by high-class ski customers, quickly descended into a mobile workshop, filled with plenty of potent odors, and a laundry room for dirty riders trying to dry 5-day old kit ready for the next day.

Nukeproof at the Mega
The kitchen, AKA the wheel room...


It's worth making the trip to Alp D'Huez just to ride as access to the lifts and the stunning Alpine trails which await you here, are included in the entry price. The local mountains have a vast trail network beyond those used for the race to be explored. But being here for the race, we smashed in a few runs to help ease us into the weekend's festivities.

Megavlanche
Gondola access is never taken for granted when you come from the UK and Ireland, where we don't have any... apart from Fort Bill.

Megavlanche
Which way?

Nukeproof at the Mega
3600m up and the views are breathtaking.

Megavlanche
Lining up to practice a start with the crew.

Nukeproof at the Mega
Kelan engaging the mega speed tuck.

bigquotesI have to say a massive thank you to Cathy and the Mega team for helping us out. The Alp D'Huez trails were class and the race is like nothing else! It's physical and massively nerve-racking lining up, but the race just has an incredible backdrop and is just good craic with the team and other riders. Roll on 2017. - Nukeproof Marketing Manager, Rob Sherratt

NA
Stunning views in every direction... mesmerizing!

Megavlanche
Do you even drift...bro?

Megavlanche
It's fair to say that everyone fell off.

Nukeproof at the Mega
Matti Lehikoinen on the skids.

Nukeproof at the Mega
Yep, these here mountains are a touch bigger than the ones we have back in Northen Ireland.

bigquotesWhat an incredible experience and a definite must do for every bike rider! This was my second visit to the top of Pic Blanc and the experience of knowing what to expect didn't make it any less intimidating or exciting this time around. If you are considering the Megavalanche, gather up a group of mates, pack some spares and don't look back! - Nukeproof Brand Manager, Ali Beckett.

Nukeproof at the Mega
Big Wheels, big terrain. Job done!

Nukeproof
The singletrack down from the glacier was absolutely epic!

Megavlanche
Always follow the man in the Red Bull helmet if you want to know all the rad lines.

NA
Decisions, decisions...fast rolling but lack traction in the snow, but make for better drifts?
Legend
Terry the legend and one of the many riders we met smashing the Mega on their Megas.

As well as racing, It was an awesome opportunity to meet up and hang out with all the riders at the event. We also had a load of promotional tees for everyone repping Nukeproof Megas, as a way of saying thanks for choosing the Mega and making the trip. We also brought a mechanic and plenty of spare parts to keep every Nukeproof rider going throughout the week. Come Thursday, Alp D'Huez kicks off with an explosion of over 2000 riders who all miraculously arrive in time for the qualifying races and session the tracks. A quick tip - be sure to get down the sports hall early to sign on, collect your number boards and find out where and when you will be starting in qualifying.

Nukeproof at the Mega
Ali and Kelan taking things seriously...as always.

Megavlanche
Radical French Coffee. It's a thing!
Nukeproof at the Mega
When in France, enjoying Mexican food.

Nukeproof at the Mega
Kelan railing one of the berms.

Nukeproof at the Mega
A highly domesticated Chalet.
Nukeproof at the Mega
The Perfect trail weapon? A few choice upgrades and this thing was lit!

Nukeproof
The views...so good and very distracting.


Qualifying on Friday can only be described as pure chaos. A favorable start line is always welcome, but nothing prepares you for the bar-to-bar, do-or-die racing down a 25-minute track to decide where and what race you start in for the Megavalanche. The nerves on qualifying morning are like nothing else. We lucked into a front row start which just meant that we had to get away quick to avoid being bull-dozed by the 200 people behind us. Top 35 get into the main race on Sunday, with the next 35 in the Saturday race and so on; everyone gets a turn! The qualifying track is slightly shorter than the main event and starts on wide rock laden roads with a light snow covering. Once you have survived the mass start, the pack seemingly thins slightly into a ribbon of rock gardens into the open fields above Alp D'Huez. Then it's a sprint through town and to the sports hall for the finish. Only 25+ minutes of pain!

Nukeproof at the Mega
That early morning race feeling...

Nukeproof at the Mega
Piste bashed to perfection; this doesn't last.

For Sunday's race, we arrived at the top of the mountain early preparing for utter carnage on the glacier! There is a 1km queue to the toilet as 400 other nervous riders like you who have similarly woken up too early and already emptied the drink in their hydration packs. When we had finished raving to the sound of Euro-trance and watching the helicopter fly just meters over our head it was go time!

By the time the tapes raise, the back of the pack is on the front of the pack sprinting towards the packed snow. This soon becomes slush and a filled with bodies... A word of advice, never let go of your bike when you crash! After 5km of energy sapping snow, ice and slush, you're into the good stuff! Some awesome rocky singletrack around the side of the mountain with a few technical rock gardens to clear (there are some sneaky lines if you are looking for somewhere to overtake) before hitting the meadows above Alp D'Huez. Then, the short road climb, which is lined with spectators to motivate you to pedal before a final drop which spits you into some fast flowing singletrack to test your nerve, arms, and brakes before arriving 30km later to the valley floor and the finish in Allemond...simple.

Nukeproof
Matti Lehikoinen pinned and making it look far too easy.

Nukeproof
You've got to make it down in any way you can.
NA
Never let go of your bike...never!

Nukeproof at the Mega
Ahead of the masses and away from the carnage.

Nukeproof at the Mega
That finishing feeling... exhausted, sore and about to sign up for next year's race!
Nukeproof
Best see where we ended up... time to inspect the results board.

Nukeproof at the Mega
See you next year and don't forget to #Enjoyresponsibly!
Must Read This Week

26 Comments

  • + 24
 That picture of Matti Lehikoinen hauling ass downhill looks so sick!
  • + 2
 I guess Finn's ride their bikes like they do cars - Flat out like a mad man!
  • + 12
 Nice report. But why doesn't anyone ever show the beautiful singletrack further down? Of course there are these alpine conditions but the Mega is so much more than that.
  • + 1
 I guess they had so much fun at the top, they never reached those singletracks Smile
  • + 1
 Well.. Basically when people hear the word 'Megavalanche' they immediately think about snow
  • + 1
 Plus they only had one cameraman and he couldn't make it from the piste to the singletrack faster than the riders
  • + 3
 We were have been laughing too much on the lower section to stop and shoot photos. Sorry! Next year....
  • + 10
 Oh God I know that feeling of being on your ass on the glacier and seeing your bike disappearing down the hill, then getting clonked in the back by someone else's bike, then the someone else.
  • - 1
 The Nuked that ride from start to finish. Just Proof you don't a fancy suspension design to have an Avalanche of Mega fun. Smile
  • + 11
 Nukeproof makes a handsome steed
  • + 3
 Like a Capra and a Spartan had a baby
  • + 4
 I did this race a couple years ago. It's the coolest, craziest, most braggable, bucket list event for any rider. The camaraderie was incredible. I was having the most pumped up conversations during the race with French riders... I spoke no French, they no English. The universal language of shredding to your max is incredible. Spectator energy is worth noting.
  • + 5
 The guys at Nukeproof proper squared me away whilst I was there. I totalled my Scott Genius and the guys gave me a loan of one of there Mega's. Top blokes and a class race. Well worth doing.
  • + 3
 Matti was always one of my favorite world cup guys, crackhead style, pure racer.
  • + 1
 I'll never understand people who wear shorts in winter, just looking at these photos makes me feel cold.
  • + 7
 The Megavalanche Alpe d'Huez is not in the winter. Just a bit of snow at the top section but very soon you're riding loose rocks.
  • + 1
 A great and very technical track ! ...when racing it must be terrific !!
  • + 1
 More like terrifiyng,specially the start.
  • + 1
 Whos cheers'ing with a glass of water? Youre not invited back next year
  • - 3
 Hi everyone, please check out all of my youtube videos and subscribe to my channel as there is something big to come www.youtube.com/channel/UCDtg1DurQhnGp6z1_J7W1mA
  • - 2
 always wanted to try megavalanche. better than skiing. but not as rad as snowboarding Big Grin
  • - 2
 Thats how ski! Screw those slidy things that attach to your feet, just ride your bike!
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