Sunday came and my guts were turning in anticipation! I hadn’t been able to get onto the glacier for practice during the week. For the first time all week we were able to see the peak of Pic Blanc from the village. Hooooollllyyy. It’s a long way up. We got sardined into the gondola and winched to the top.
Surprisingly my nerves calmed down once I got onto the snow. The start was very close now and the tangibility of it seemed to make it less intimidating. After a couple of hours of dancing in the cold we were lined up at the start. Each seeding group separated by a tape. The vibe was pretty cool, lots of Damien Marley and chilled tunes. There was no need for heavy music to get everyone amped. The 40 degree slope ahead of us took care of that.
Just like qualifying the 15min. 2min and 30sec flags were waved like a rag to 400 bulls. Helicopter blades sounded above then “ALAAAARMMMMMMAAAAAAAAA” the cheesy euro electro pop signalled the main event was on again. There were yells from the troops and the anticipation was high. The tape went up and we were off. A scene reminiscent of Lord of the Rings unfolded. Hundreds of riders lurched off the line and down the ski slope. In a word – carnage. Rider after ride went down in front of me and it felt like even more passed.
I got the first corner without falling, I took the human-bike tripod method. I struggled to get my feet up as the riders in front of me chopped the soft snow up. Any videos did no justice to how physical this part of the race was. A mixture of soft snow and altitude ensured I was pretty wrecked by the time we hit the gravel. A long procession of riders in front and behind made a snaking line down the sharpy shaly single-track. I overtook a few dudes on the downs with a shout of “Rider” following by less friendly words.
My heart was absolutely peaking by now and I struggled to get into a steady state rhythm the more altitude acclimatized were knocking on my back door when we hit the climbs. I got passed. The most frustrating thing was I would catch them as soon as I hit the flowy down parts. Passing was difficult as it was either a risky high speed affair on the downs or required an extra blast of energy on the small climbing sections which I didn’t have in the tank. As we moved from the high altitude shale into the alpine meadows my race started to change to survival mode! The mud was super slow and the uphill sections that normally could be negotiated with a bit of momentum were clogged up with riders.
In the middle of the track there is a 300m climb which was lined with spectators – consisting mostly of riders from other classes. It was great to get a bit of a boost on the hardest up in the track but things went downhill figuratively and literally straight after this. The track moved down to the forests deep in the valley and onto the finish in the small village of Allemond, 2500m vertical metres below the start. At the points where the track was it’s least steep the mud got super gluggy and almost impossible to ride.
The next 20-30mins was spent pushing through any flat sections and riding as fast as possible on the steeper sections to keep the tires clear, my Gopro cutout about 30mins from the finish so unfortunately I missed capturing the action in the steep forests coming into Allemond. I crossed the line in 129th place which I wasn’t super happy with but my main goal for the race was to Qualify for the main event and finish the Mega so – job done. I couldn’t believe how much energy was required to finish this truly epic race I collapsed after crossing the finish line and enjoyed 3 apples, 2 Clif bars, 1 sanga, 4 bottles of water and a pack of chips!
Thanks to all the crew we rode with that made the trip so great!
I’d love to go back and race in the dry in the future. I’d like to thank all our affiliates in helping us get over and live the dream. In particular Clif (Rob Hurley from Shimano Australia for all their support), Schwalbe tires, Fox Suspension Australia and Pushie Enterprises (KS, CSixx and Mucky Nutz), TLD (Lusty Industries) and a very special thanks to Claire for putting up with constant bike talk and lots of behind the scenes work.