Every year at around this time a large part of the French racing contingent heads south to the isle of Réunion in the Indian Ocean for the season finale that is Megavalanche Réunion. We’ve never properly managed to make it there for the event in all of its 20-year history, but this time round Dirt snapper Andy Lloyd has taken one for the team and is sunning himself on the golden beaches and blasting down the dusty trails as we speak. Tough life eh.
Stay tuned for Lloyder’s report from Qualifying and Finals, and for now get an insight into the goings on pre-race.
SUNBURN, DUST AND VOLCANOES
Words and Pictures Andy Lloyd
Mention the Megavalache to most people and they immediately think of thousands of riders thundering down the snow high up in the French Alps at the famous annual Alpe d’Huez event. There is, however, another version of this esteemed race which this weekend sees its twentieth running. 5500 miles south of Alpe d’Huez lies the tiny French volcanic island of Réunion, the location for this very French end of season getaway/race.
More than just a race, this is a holiday for riders with mates/family/girlfriend and a bit of competition tagged on to it. I say a bit but there is an underlying sense of seriousness that many of the riders are trying to keep quiet, disguising it with the general chilled out holiday vibe of the place.
This place is hot, no two ways about it. Riding in the midday heat is not a comfortable experience (my beacon-like burnt nose is testament to that). Due to this, so far practice has been at a minimum and chilling out has taken precedence. Joining a number of riders on a morning practice session today on the full Mega course I found out why so many are taking things easy. The track is about the same length and elevation loss as its more famous Alpine cousin, but it is a whole lot more brutal. A lot of this due to your head boiling in your helmet the closer you get to sea level.
It’s not just race practice though and there are numerous marked trails throughout the island taking advantage of its height of over 3000m. Organised tours have been heading up to the live volcanic area of the island and its massive crater, but most of the riders have been opting to chill out on the beach. Last night we tempted Commencal pro Nico Quéré away from the shores for an evening shoot once the heat had faded a tiny bit. Using a man-made ‘bike park’ track near the event HQ he showed just why he is such a talent on the enduro racing circuit… More pics to follow in the mag soon.
Practice proper starts tomorrow, with qualifying Saturday and the Megavalanche first thing Sunday morning. Stay tuned.