1st and 2nd respectively at the Megavalanche Alpe D’Huez Pierre-Charles George of Scott and Thibaut Ruffin of Commencal, side by side down the rapid open rock section at the top.
1st and 2nd respectively at the Megavalanche Alpe D’Huez Pierre-Charles George of Scott and Thibaut Ruffin of Commencal, side by side down the rapid open rock section at the top.

Mega Réunion Practice

Words and photos: Andy Lloyd

Practice was well and truly underway on Réunion Island yesterday, although you wouldn’t have thought it! Four hours to walk the top third of the Megavalanche track and we only came across about 20 riders! Due to the massive elevation of the Island uplifts take at least an hour, so most riders do just the one practice run per day. Think of the place as a very very hot version of an Alpine resort accept the town is at sea level with the mountains the same height and there are no chairlifts!

Favourite to take the win in the Mega Rémy Absalon practicing the flat out top section of the course.
Favourite to take the win in the Mega Rémy Absalon practicing the flat out top section of the course.

The weather here is fairly predictable with the sky being empty of clouds up until about 11am, then as the heat builds so do the clouds, completely covering the inland high areas of the island whilst the coast stays very hot in the sun. This makes for three very distinct layers of the Megavalanche course.

The top third is out in the open with sparse vegetation on very rough ancient solidified lava flows which will destroy wheels/tyres/mechs/anything you put in the wrong place, thankfully it's relatively cool up there with a nice breeze to give you a helping hand when your lungs are bursting. This section fades in to a dry wooded fairly technical area interspersed with flat out open grass sections.

Next comes the one of the fun bits, as you dive into the rapidly accumulating clouds the temperature drops and the vegetation turns into the mutant child of a tropical rain forest and the best British Columbia has to offer in the way of wooded epic-ness. The track is multi-lined, covered in roots and rocks and predominately made up of very deep powdery loam.

Once through this section (which will be nightmarish if it dares to rain come race day) comes a 1km road climb on a fairly tame gradient, followed by what is some of the best flat out riding I have ever come across. You are now into open farmland and in and out of the sugar cane crop, fire roads with six inches of dust in every corner and multiple lines in and out make for some fun battles with those in front and behind you. The final section to the finish can only be described as brutal, the same flat out fire roads but this time add in massive rocks and holes the full width of the track, this coupled with a doubling of the temperature of the woods before.

Before the Mega proper on Sunday morning, qualifying has to be taken care of today. Basically it's an enduro race format with four stages down to the beach. The only difference being the riders head off in motos of three every minute and on this occasion the transitions are virtually non-existent. So basically this means a full on three man downhill battle to the beach over four stages. Should make for some interesting racing.

Stay tuned.