52 weeks at Mega Avalanche 2010 - Part 3

Jul 11, 2010 at 11:45
by John Lee  

52 weeks ago I set myself a challenge to compete in the Mega Avalanche 2010 after a 10 year break away from my bike due to a back breaking injury. But after all those blogs and my recent patch of injuries - I can finally say it is finished!

And my story is below, enjoy!

Day 5 – Qualifying Race

It's 6am and we drive up the hill into Oz and join the world's longest queue of around 600 other riders – The queue moves slow and we eventually make our way up the steel snow shedding steps to our new summit for the qualifying race.

On arrival the helicopter takes off as group 3 begin their race of 200 riders bundling their way down a series of fire road hairpins into the black downhill run.

The deal then with qualifying goes as so:

200 riders in each race.

Riders who finish 1 – 38 of each race go into the Mega Avalanche Main Race
Riders who finish 39 – 74 of each race go into Mega Challenger Race
Riders who finish 75 – 111 of each race go into Mega Amateur Race
Riders who finish 111 – 200 split into Affinity 1 and Affinity 2 Challenge



As we line up and scope out some sort out of technique to get out in front of the 200 other riders in our race – it suddenly dawns on me in my second row position – all I have to do is get out in front and away from the other riders and I am ok – so I line myself up to ride as hard as possible and get out in front! The countdown begins and I make my way to the front tucked behind around 15 / 20 other people away from trouble and into a safe position to make my way down the fire roads and onto the thin black downhill run.


All is going well and I am holding my top 20 position easily and enjoying myself. After a couple of dodgy moments and a great race start, suddenly all hope is taken away and my rear wheel is now bouncing around and the tyre is hanging off. I pull over and begin fixing my bike suffering a huge heart braking moment as I watch my whole group pass by me and down the hill. After changing my inner tube and using another dude's pump to inflate it 200 yards further down the track – I am back on the bike in around 10/15 minutes and playing catch up with my disappearing group and attempting to pick them off one by one and get back into the qualifying races. As I make my way down and take a nasty slide on the singletrack – I am then left with a diagonally bent up seat post and I begin my final attempt descending into the finish passing the stragglers in my group and following Julien Cammelini’s dust into the finishing area.

As I jumped the step down giving it all the style my bike would allow, I crossed the line and I was exhausted and slowly realizing my bike was wrecked after my footloose, risky, high speed race run! My forks were dead and were running at around a maximum of 40mm of travel, my adjustable seat post bent, rear tyre torn and now all my spares were used up!

I was greeted by friends and family all trying to pick my gutted face off the floor – I just couldn’t believe that after such a good start, it was all taken away by a flipping puncture and a torn sidewall.

I knew my time was around 44 minutes and considering all my faffing and mechanical issues – it was a fair time for me to make it into the finish area considering the circumstances. However I knew it wouldn’t get me into any of the main races and now I would end up in the carnage of one of the affinity races chasing a huge group of riders in front of me and with a massive amount behind me! I wasn’t convinced that my race position would leave me with the opportunity to achieve a great time in the final results – but I decided to approach my race with a singular objective - Race as fast as I could and overtake as many other riders possible!

The results that evening confirmed I was racing in affinity 1 and would be racing the next day! I headed home to try and fix my bike and prepare for the next day.

Views: 4,158    Faves: 5    Comments: 7


Day 6-

The 5 am wake up call sounds and I head down stairs to collect my new ride for the event. The sad news from the mechanic at the bike shop last night meant I wouldn’t be able to race my Haro Porter in the mega avalanche race and instead I would have to hire a 35 euro Giant Reign rental because...

1 – Suspension Fork could not be repaired in time
2 – Rear rim separated on the join
3 – Rear brake needed bleeding
4 - Seat post was officially dead!

So as we head up the mountain with my new ride, I have no idea what will happen in this race and if I can even get to grips with this bike during the race. All would be a mystery until I left the start line and began my descent from Pic Blanc to Allemont down the relentless 33km of mass covered Snow, rock and dust!

As the gondola arrives and the helicopter buzzes above filming the madness about to happen I watch the Mega Ladies and Mega Challenger racers make their way down the Glacier at Pic Blanc. The snow appears soft and you either make a rut and groove down or get caught in the small dips and are sent head over heels down the glacier.

As the madness settles we are directed to the start and then sent off in mini waves around 15 minutes after the first group. I began my drop into the first snowy run and the cut up mess that awaited us was like cycling through knee deep powder and when surrounded by numerous other cyclists and with your sights set on reaching the bottom pronto – it becomes frustrating and time consuming.


Most people began running the track and picking their way down to solve the speed issue. At times you could ride and others you just had to walk it out – as we escaped the frozen wonderland – we were all shocked at the energy that was zapped from us at the very beginning of the race. We were not even a 1/4 of the way down! I had to stop as my seat had fallen off at the worst time ever – so I quickly found some allen keys and tightened that rude boy up!

The long bottle necked single track section was our next obstacle and it was slow riding due to a lot of slow moving congestion. If you had some balls and did some risky overtaking manoeuvres with a dash of all or nothing riding – this paid out and gave you hints of light ahead; causing you to sprint as hard as possible to catch the riders you could spot in the distance. This seemed to really motivate me and caused me to really focus on catching the dudes ahead – I worked harder than I have ever ridden before and I constantly overtook riders and caught the rear section of the race ahead of me!

As we traversed Alpe d huez and climbed for way too many km’s across the dust settled trails until we peaked over the mountain and peered into another huge length of single track signposting the half way mark and the end of the long climbs.

As I continued snaking my way down the next section of single track I began to find a faster pace and I promised myself that I would ride harder than I have already and give it everything to make my time as fast as possible.

The final half of the track went by surprisingly fast and as I descended the steep woods into the final few Kilometers I was managing to keep on overtaking more and more riders and continue my newly found confident pace to the bottom of the hill

As I crossed the bridge into Allemont and hit the final flat section – I cranked up my gears and sprinted towards the finish line and get my time as strong as possible.

I came across the line as either one of the 1st or second from our Mega Affinity group and ahead of a lot of riders from the 2 races that left before me.

I removed helmet and looked at the mountains I had just blasted my way down and I thought – was the 52 weeks of training, all the work and effort, all the time sacrificed, all the races entered worth it ……… Hell YES!

After seeing my family and chatting to some friends we left the finishing area knowing I finished the 33kms of hell in around 1 hour 35/40 minutes – a time that I feel reflected my riding fairly and would hopefully give me a good final overall time rankings in the Mega Avalanche Race Results. I'll have to wait and see on that one though - all I know is that out of my race - I came 28th out of 283 - not bad that!

I am now in Paris with my wife and son before arriving back in the UK to the 9-5 job mixed up with a couple of dates with some magazines and video journalists – so expect to see a final blog from me soon in a few weeks and a summary of my last year and what that means next.

Views: 3,284    Faves: 12    Comments: 9
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38 Comments

  • + 1
 I've been following this from the start, and believe me it really doesnt seem like its been a year! Congratulations on the race, and its a pity you couldnt ride your bike for the final race! Well done on how far you've come since a year ago, its been inspiring stuff, and I look forward to finding out whats next for you man!
  • + 1
 Well Done John !! To come back from Zero and just ride that Course is impressive ! It was fun following you for the last year, really enjoyed it and I hope it's not going to be last that we lucky Pinkbike readers are going to hear from you !!!
  • + 1
 I was in your quali group by the looks of things, were you in group 6?

I finished 74 making up 70 odd places after starting on the second to back row, thats harsh what happened to you dude, it was complete carnage at the start as i landed full pelt onto my head actually putting a crack in my helmet, just mental.
  • + 2
 YEAHHH John!! Who cares about all your mechanical issues! The main thing is you done what you set out to do and that is to race in the mega and that you finished it, thats great man Smile
  • + 1
 I love the part when the dude in front of you was pussy footing it, he pulls over and you blow by hahaha! Good job man, goal set, goal made. Whats next if life, only you know right. You can do what you put your mind to, this is living proof!
  • + 1
 Been reading your blogs since the start dude, its been great to see how your riding has progressed throughout the year, shows what you can achieve if you put your mind to it, 28th out of 283? Really well done mate!
  • + 1
 That sucks about the flat! But great race anyway! Excuse my ignorance, but wouldn't it be better to run tubeless or am I completely missing something??
  • + 2
 Nice one John, so glad to see that all the training payed off after all, Internet High-Five coming your way tup
  • + 1
 ahh that was you there..

i was there too.. did not finish as high up as you but i was satisfied.. Big Grin

awesome wanst it ?

Salute
  • + 2
 top bombing Jumble! i'll have a cold beer sorted for you when we catch up next
  • + 3
 ive read almost every report you've had and fair enough you really have achived someting there mate. looks like you had one hell of a time too
  • + 2
 rim seperated at the join? thats why we dont use sleeved =/
  • + 3
 I wonder what the look on the rental shop guys face was when you returned the bike.
  • + 0
 LOL no shit, note to self: dont buy ex rental's
  • + 3
 cool reports, I really liked them. Amazing that you managed to race after your shoulder dislocation. I will upload a helmetcam-video where you can be seen quite well, I was starting in the same run. But please try to be honest - "I am holding my top 20 position easily" is just wrong...you kept your chances to get into the mega (which is great) but nothing more ;-)

Too bad you got so many mechanical issues, I had some too (started from the 4th row, got into 16th position, then my rear derailleur tried his best to kick me out of the mega, but I got in as 32nd; in the Mega I got into the top100, but then had a flat tyre....well I guess, that's just kind of average for the Mega *gg*)
  • + 2
 lol so many people bailed
  • + 1
 wow realy lotd of respect man sick place man i know how hard that track is and thats a realy nice result
  • + 2
 Looks like you got smoked by two factory wannabes then. Stinger...
  • + 0
 I was going to send you a message over the next few days - but seeing as you dropped one in ill just reply now and say it here. You lads got bloody awesome results in qualifying and I saw that one of you finished the final race in the top 100! Amazing. Massive props to both of you and man oh man are you guys just as good on bikes as you are behind the lense. But was it a Stinger....... not really. If you had known the history to my blog and understood my aim 1 year ago then you would know it wasnt to ride or race against people but to get my ass back on a bike after 10 years off of one. And seeing as my doctor told me 5 weeks ago not to ride my bike for 12 weeks after dislocating my shoulder I had to ride my bike quite conservativly and make sure I tried my hardest not to fall off. I really am impressed with your results and i really do mean it when i say well done, its a tough race, but neither am I jealous or gutted you beat me and my own result, i was just releaved to be able to race under the circumstances. Good luck in the future boys and i hope we see more of those results and your banging videos!
  • + 2
 congrats mate.....you did really well...
  • + 2
 Good job. You put alot into this. You deserved it!
  • + 1
 all your post since last year really made me wanting to go there and race! good job man!
  • + 1
 well done mate, pity about yor mecahnicals!

the joys of riding eh?? Smile
  • + 1
 anyone know wot the songs are in the second vid?
  • + 1
 Arcade fire - No cars go
Pheonix - Lassoo
The Wombats - ?
  • + 1
 awesome all round effort dude Smile
  • + 1
 i wish i could do what you did! mega props
  • + 1
 Well done mate! Big Grin
Now you have a target to beat for next year....Big Grin
  • + 1
 thats freaking crazy!!!!!!
  • + 1
 Well done mate that was epic!
  • + 1
 Awesome videos, I enjoyed the DH alot!!
  • + 1
 looks like mad fun bro! top notch.
  • + 1
 that flat was a bummer but it sounds like you made up for it!
  • + 1
 excellent all round video. well done on a great effort....
  • + 1
 wots the best kind of rig for this race? dh,fr,am, etc?
  • + 1
 great work bud
  • + 0
 good job man,must have been soooo liberating..
  • + 1
 Well done mate

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