my megavalanche (mis)adventure
Posted on July 21, 2011
So I am finally setting myself down in front of my trusty old computer to write a little something something about my megavalanche experience this year. It is pouring with rain outside, all my riding kit is filthy muddy, so I’m manning the laundromat. I have not had the urge to think back about the Mega that much since it finished a week or two ago, nor have I really had much time to gather my thoughts and to actually put some words down as we have been flying, packing up house, signing paperwork to hopefully sell our house, dealing with NZ immigration paperwork, chest X rays & blood tests (we’re from Africa you know), Whistlering it up and getting to ride & hang out with the SRAMies here in Canada.
I made a solo mission out to Alpe d’Huez this year for the Megavalance, as my usual riding posse was stuck in Wyndham for the 5th round of the World Cup series. I wasn’t going to miss this for anything, so I jam packed my mom’s little Cleo and headed out on a road trip, knowing that there would be tons of people I knew out there to ride with.
The weather was perfect and the two tracks were super fun as usual. It is just such an amazing event and between the qualifying track and race track, it covers every possible sort of terrain that you may be looking for. It has a bit of everything, and it puts your skills to test like no other. You feel relieved every time you reach the bottom, it is sketchy, fast, scary and super fun & flowy all at the same time – a great combination for the perfect enduro race and a massive perma-grin that remains on your face all week. It takes a good 2 full days of riding to cover the entire qualifying and race track at least once before the racing starts.
For the qualifying race this year it was the same track as before at the top, but we did some urban slalom, jump, stairs & tunnel type riding before we hit a bermed four cross style track all the way down to the village of Huez where the race ended. The start of this race is always such a complete cluster – it is chaotic with people and bikes everywhere and you just try to remain focused and to look ahead to find your lines. Qualifying went really well for me after a good battle between a few of us girls – of course Anne Caroline Chausson was so far ahead I couldn’t even see her, but I had a great ride and ended up in 2nd place – 2min behind her in just under 30min. I was extremely pleased to say the least.
Of course this made me feel a little bit more anxious for race day, just the pressure that you tend to put on yourself to have to try and repeat that. Not an easy feat at an event like the megavalanche where there are so many variables and things that could possibly go wrong. I was well prepared and ready to race though, and it was an all or nothing race for me and I wanted to get back on that box big time!
After a very restless evening of sleep, we all made our way up to the top of the glacier at 6am in the morning – freezing cold and very nervous, but so ready to get this race going. The Euro techno music started blaring, the glacier ice/snow was glistening in the morning sun, the men were all up there to see what they should not be doing during their race the next day and we were lined up and ready to race. I chose to do a running start this year, to get up onto the rocks as soon as possible and off the glacier, and it worked out just like I had hoped for. We were racing. My heart was racing, my breathing was erratic and I was on a mission to get to the bottom. A few of us battled it out on the snow, over the massive off camber ice block and up and down some climbs, but eventually I made the right passes to get out in front of the rest (of course Anne Caroline was ahead and again, not anywhere in sight). I got into a great rhythm and I just rode like I knew how to ride my bike. The gaps started to get bigger and eventually I was riding alone. I had to just keep this going. Breathe, focus, ride. Simple right. Well, not exactly. After being in the 2nd place position for a long time, I felt something that every racer dreads. That feeling of complete disbelief when the back of your bike starts to drift out a bit and you know that you have a flat, but you’re in complete denial and you just keep pinning it until the bike kicks you off and smashes you onto the ground. Only then you realize that you actually did have a flat and that that was that. Race over. After you have worked so hard over two days of racing, you feel completely cheated and just pissed off. But, that is racing, and it happens to everyone. As I walked my way down the track, teary eyed, and super disappointed, I managed to cheer on the rest of the girls that were racing past me. This was not easy to do, but what can you do. I still had an amazing qualifier and an amazing week of riding in the French Alps.
I had four hours to deal with my emotions on my drive back to my mom’s house and they were pretty angry & emotional, but after the drive, it was time to move on. I had a flight to catch the next morning – back to Bend, OR for the first time in 6 months, I had a house to pack up, I had a husband to see (YAH), Whistler was waiting and we had paperwork to get ready for our new adventure in New Zealand. It was time to let go, and to move on.
I’ll be back next year Megavalanche and I can’t wait!
Huge big thanks to Dani & SRAM for all your support and help out there – it made the world of difference. You guys ROCK!
Another day has come and gone by here in Whistler, no riding for me today, I need to find some peace & quiet, away from the maddening village of mountain bikers – perfect opportunity for a yoga class. Bliss.