The 2014 Megavalanche has just been and gone, and it reminded us of this incredible account of the race that we featured way back in issue 79 of Dirt. Many of us in the office rate this as one of the best articles that we’ve ever featured. Why? Well firstly it’s brilliantly written and funny as hell, and secondly because over the years we have featured numerous accounts of the legendary race, but this was the first time we felt that someone had really managed to describe in words what makes the event so special. I don’t think we’ve even bothered to try and beat this since simply because it is, and always will be, THE Megavalanche race report. Enjoy…
Mega Traffic Jam
Megavalanche Alpe D’Huez 2008
Words: Steve Bancroft
Photos: Victor Lucas
There’s a whole lot of pressure involved in the losing of one’s virginity. Expectations and anticipations are elevated to celestial heights and, unfortunately for some, it’s reported that your performance during the ‘popping of your cherry’ acts as the defining moment in making you who you will be in the future. It’s not just copulation where this is the case: whenever you partake in something for the first time, that primary experience will have a lasting effect on your perception of whatever activity it was.
The 2008 Megavalanche was my first mountain bike race. The 2008 Megavalanche was my last mountain bike race. As a sexual encounter my performance in the event was comparable to an awkward fumbling under the sheets of a single bed in my mother’s house where I shot my bolt after the first two minutes then spent the next hour and 16 minutes limply flopping around trying to pretend that I hadn’t.
I don’t really know how I ended up at the top of a mountain – wearing a padded leotard, on a ‘full suss’ (gay name) bike – as for 15 years BMX has owned my life and I’ve spent the last five working full time for Ride BMX Magazine (of which I’m currently the Editor). So although I have only recently lost my mountain bike V plates, I’ve been knocking around on bikes for a fair while. During my time working for Ride(a printed publication that once shared the office as the very magazine from which you are now reading the word COCK in) I incubated a strange loathing for mountain biking. You see, as a devoted BMXer from an early age, the basis for my contempt towards ‘MTBs’ is rooted in my very genes, written into my DNA if you will. I was brought up on a strict 20inch philosophy and being so fanatical about my beliefs in my prepubescent years, it wasn’t unheard of me to vent my religious extremities by shouting things like “21 gears for queers” at passing motorless motorbikes. However, now that my beard grows fairly thick, now that the sparse wispy blond whiskers on my chin are coarse, dark, and numerous, I’ve begun to question my angered feelings towards the parallel world that is MTB. So I thought I’d stick my neck out, do something wacky, and give it a chance: an act not dissimilar to a life long vegan waking up one morning and tucking into a large doner kebab for breakfast.
I see it a bit like this: MTB and BMX were both born of the same mother, twins I suppose. But soon after birth their parents got a divorce and they went their separate ways. BMX chose to go live with his Dad who was a bit of a hell raiser, he got into a lot of mischief and although academically he might not be too hot, he had a helluva good time. Meanwhile MTB got stuck with his mother, not really getting up to much and turning out to be a bit boring but pretty clever. BMX never really liked MTB and for years they never spoke. But after a while MTB tracked down BMX and began to idolize him, following him around, lurking in his shadow, secretly trying to mimic his actions. No-one likes a cling-on. But anyway, in a rare, karma inspired change of heart I decided to give my weiner of a brother a chance, so went on holiday with him to France.
I signed up for the Mega completely blind, I’d never ridden a MTB with a retail value of more than £79.95 before in my life. And while my travel companions packed fork oil, brake fluid, spare shocks, energy bars, bike stands, spare bikes, a team of mechanics, thick rimmed glasses sellotaped in the middle and jet washers: I took an orange suitcase and the heavy red bike that Dirt editor Mike Rose had kindly lent me.
I bought my suitcase as part of a £2 job lot from the dump and after I’d finished packing for my downhill excursion I’d guess that the total value of the suitcase was about £22. It was like a makeover from a boys brigade jumble sale. I borrowed Diana (he means Dainese: Ed) one-piece padded leotard from Steve Geall (which strangely enough smelt of gin). A duffed up carbon head pot from the Dirt office and a bag pipe from our local drug dealer. My get-up was topped off by a pair of board shorts and either my favourite shirt of my lucky shirt. These two shirts have experienced the heavenliest of highs and the darkest of lows together, they’re my boys, I trust them with my life and feel safe with them around – they quite literally have my back. I have no idea how all of the other riders do something as crazy as riding down a mountain in the company of a fluorescent logo’d up 60% lycra prick.
Upon arrival to Alp d’Huez I was really excited and eager to try this new sport. Upon donning my riding costume I felt and smelt horrible and wanted to go home. All my senses were numb, I couldn’t hear anything because of the lid, I couldn’t move because of the padded catsuit. I’m sure the mountain air was fresh and clear but inside my head piece all I could smell was sweat and cigarettes, and the small murky moto-X goggles lent to me by my housemate made it seem like I was drunk and stuck down the end of toilet tube roll. I tried to pedal the bike around for the first time and it felt like it was broken: whatever I pushed on, be it bars or pedals, everything just seemed to move out of the way. I felt like Mr Soft.