Cedric Gracia being trailed by Nico

Megavalanche Réunion Qualifying and Finals

Words and Photos Andy Lloyd

Qualifying

It’s Megavalanche qualifying today down here in the tropics on Réunion Island. Once again it is bonkers hot which will be an added challenge for the riders today as it has been all week….to be fair walking a short distance in the heat and altitude of the start is hard enough let alone the baking conditions at sea level.

As I said in the last report qualifying is in the form of a four stage enduro race, but with the riders heading off in motos of three every minute. The start of stage one is just below the main mega start on Le Maïdo, 2205m above race headquarters in St-Gilles-les-Bains on the rim of the Cirque de Mafate – a huge dormant volcanic crater in the centre of the island. Stage four finishes 2000m lower, just above the beach at Boucan Canot.

The qualifying stages are every bit as brutal as the main event with many of the top riders suffering mechanicals and finishing way down the field. At the end of the day event favourite Remy Absalon of Scott edging out Commencal’s Nico Quéré to take the win.

Full results here

Once everyone had gone back to their villas and had an afternoon nap, Commencal put on a beach shindig for the locals and riders alike. Most of the riders opted out of the stupid strong punch ready for a very early start and a morning of body and bike punishment.

AL_REUNION_MEGA_QUALIFYING_11

Finals

A bright and early start for riders today in the Southern hemisphere on Reunion Island, and even at six in the morning the riders waiting for the uplift are jostling for the shade! Not quite the stupid early start you have for the Alpine edition of the race and luckily with a whole lot less queue rage. Over an hour drive to the top of Le Maïdo fighting for space on the road with the thousands of tourists that head up there for the views. On arrival there is a fairly relaxed vibe on the go with a mixture of predominately French and Reunion Island racers, around 250 in total, all watched over by a large contingent of mostly bemused holiday makers. Split into three starts. First are the fastest qualifiers in the main Mega, then the women, followed by the rest of the field in the Mega Challenger…..everyone races the same course.

Any shade possible at the start.

The start isn’t quite the spectacle of the snowy depart of Pic Blanc at Alpe d’Huez, but it is far more unforgiving. A quick sprint off the line down a road for fifty metres then a tight chcane followed by a right hander onto the ancient lava flows. Massive line choice for the next 200 metres across the incredibly rough rock, a three foot drop off the main road and then you’re into the tight stuff. If you are not in the front few by the second straight then passing will be a problem until the flat lower sections.

Commencal’s Nico Quéré took the hole shot leading the field out for the first straight, then the second across the lava. Losing his lead to Rémy Absalon by the time the field was out of my sight. As agreed with the organisers I was allowed to race the challenger so long as I started from the very back of the event as I had not ridden qualifying. Ditching my cameras I ran up to the start for what I had hoped would be an overtake fest! All went to plan on the start and I passed over half the field taking the dodgy drop line off the road crossing back on to the lava, then the bravado got the better of me on a way too risky inside line with a massive stack ensuing putting an end to the arrogant ideas of passing everyone. I limped my way down the rest of the track with a very wonky front wheel and snapped rear maxle.

When I arrived at the finish with the temperature well in to the forties all the riders were trying their best to keep in the shade and/or utililise the very random freestanding cold shower next to the track. Rémy Absalon had held the lead from Nico Quéré and took the win by 28 seconds. Scott’s Nadine Sapin took the ladies win over former world cup downhiller Melanie Pugin with a margin of nearly six minutes.

Full results here

30.11.14 Dirt - Megavalanche Qualifying, Reunion Island  PIC © Andy Lloyd www.andylloyd.photography
30.11.14 Dirt - Megavalanche Qualifying, Reunion Island  PIC © Andy Lloyd www.andylloyd.photography