With a bit of a break in the World Cup race schedule the team decided to head over to Alpe D’Huez for the Mega Week.
The Mega week consists of an epic week of riding testing bike and body to the max! The main event of the week is the Mega Avalanche race which is the biggest and most famous enduro downhill event there is. The race is a 33km decent from the top of the Glacier in Alpe D’Huez down and finishing in the town of Allemont.
At the start of the week there is a regular downhill race which is a round of the Avalanche cup downhill series. It is held on the a great track at Oz en Oisans which held last years French national downhill championships. The course is pretty long with the best times around 4:20 min. This year like last year it was really fast, dry and dusty making it very loose and slippery.
All the endurance DH specialists usually give the sprint DH a miss so they can get more practice on the Mega Avalanche course but most of the team decided to race as the track is great and its a bit of DH practice between the world cups.
Chris Kovarik excels on this type of terrain – fast, rough and loose and to know ones surprise he qualified about 5 seconds faster than anyone else just coasting into the finish line in front of current WC no.5 rider Cameran Cole. Chris posted a time of 4:17 seconds in his qualifier.
For the women’s race Claire placed 2nd behind current WC women s leader Sabrina Jonnier and Tahneé Seagrave (only a youth rider) placed 3rd with a very respectable time against the 2 world cup senior riders.
In the final just before the start Chris had a mechanical with his rear brake and had to ride the whole track with only a front brake and so he was way down on his qualifying time and that was the end of his race. His Qualifying time would have still won him the race but unfortunately that doesn’t count. Ruaridh Cunningham showed his potential finishing 2nd only 0.8 of a second behind current WC no.5 Cameran Cole. Matt Simmonds placed 9th for the day and I managed a win in the Masters category.
As soon as the race and the podiums were done we all swapped bikes from DH to our chosen Enduro rigs and got up for a run on the Mega Avalanche qualifying track. Chris packed up and headed off for his plane to Bike Radar live in the UK for the Slalom event where he ended up 5th after qualifying 2nd behind eventual winner Michael Prokop.
For the Mega Avalanche you have to do a qualifying race on the Friday. You are in heats of 200 riders lined up in rows of 25 and it is a crazy mass start. Here is a link to see what it is like from Dirt Magazine: http://dirt.mpora.com/news/dirt-tv-megavalanche-qualifying.html
The qualifying track is a different course to the actual Mega Avalanche race and is a bit more like a long DH. The race track is pretty demanding though with a fast rocky start on a fire road with a fair bit of pedalling and then into some very rocky switch backs and single track before a flat section with a nasty climb before a long and great descent to the finish consisting of single track DH, steep tight switchbacks and fast wooded DH with a sprint to the finish which is the same finish as the DH race we did earlier in the week in Oz en Oisans.
Matti Lehikoinen who missed out doing the DH won his heat in the Mega qualification in his first ever go at it and earning himself a front row position for the Mega final on Sunday. Ruaridh Cunningham placed 8th in his very fast heat giving him a 3rd row position for the final. Matt Simmonds got a great 2nd in his heat giving him a front row start for the final. I was having a great run until I had a small crash on the upper part of the course. I carried on to finish in 4th place but knew I had hurt my hand pretty bad. Some X-Rays confirmed I needed to go to hospital for some surgery so that was the end of my fun week and missing out on the Mega final. In the Women s field the qualifier was just a seeding run to put the girls in order for their final on Saturday.
For the actual Mega Avalanche finals the course was even tougher than normal because of the huge amount of snow up on the Glacier and because the very warm weather the snow was really deep and soft making it impossible to ride your bike in places which meant a running race through the flatter parts of the snow at Altitude before the gruelling race on the dirt even began.
The women’s Mega final was won by the incredible Anne-Caroline Chausson again followed by current downhill world champion Emmeline Ragot and a fantastic ride by Meggie Bichard from England. Claire battled through the race and finished a very credible 11th in a large women’s field. Well done Claire.
In the Mens Final Ruaridh ended up getting involved in a big crash on the glacier and getting trampled on and rode over destroying his gears and then on the rocky section ofter the snow his pedal got really bent and unthreaded forcing him to retire from the race at the halfway point.
Julien got a good start on the Glacier but had a huge high speed crash on the steep part when his front wheel just hit a deep soft bit of snow while he was doing about 40 mph. Julien then had to be helicoptered off the mountain to check for leg and head injuries, but it was later discovered that he was not badly injured – thankfully.
Matt Simmonds had a great start in the final getting the hole-shot with Brendan Fairclough but getting passed by a number of riders in the running part of the snow. Then unfortunately in the carnage of bikes and riders Matts gear cable snapped leaving him stuck in 9th gear. At the halfway point he pitted in whilst mechanic Dave Garland adjusted his gears so he was stuck in 5th but by this time Matt had lost many places but still finished in an amazing 26th position. If only he had had his gears. Next year Matt.
The ride of the week for us was Matti Lehikoinen in his first ever attempt at the Mega Avalanche. Matti placed 5th in the race and a podium position, showing his skills on a bike, fitness and power and just pure determination. Well done Matti. For the podium position Matti won himself at fully paid trip to the Mega Avalanche race held in the Reunion Islands this coming winter.
Matti on the podium along with the winner – Jerome Clementz, 2nd place – Nicholas Vouilloz, 3rd place – Sam Blenkinsop and 4th placed Remy Absalon.
So that was our epic week some good some bad but on the whole a great week and results for the team. We will be back next year for some more punishment and great riding for sure! Thanks to the Olivia and the organisers for a great event.
This coming weekend is the National Championships for Matt and Ruaridh up at Ae forest and the rest of the team are out in Morzine preparing for the next round of the UCI world cup in Champery Switzerland.
Source: Nigel Page
Team Manager – ChainReactionCycles/Intense
Chain Reaction Cycles • Intense Cycles