From Dirt Issue 113 - July 2011

AL_Glencoe_Macavalanche_24
AL_Glencoe_Macavalanche_24

Where there’s blame there’s a claim – you know the deal, you’ve all seen it and felt the knock–on effects, insurance goes up, councils taking down swings and play areas or your favourite jump spot flattened. There are even solicitors dealing out cards in A&E hoping everyone will take them up on a quick buck. Common sense decisions have for the most part been removed from us and gone are the days where you learn from your mistakes. You can’t make a mistake now, it’s too risky – someone has already removed the park bench that could collapse all of a sudden under your fat behind – lesson you might have learnt, lose some weight or that timber rots when exposed to the elements.

We as a society have become risk averse, not by choice might I add, but by a self perpetuating desire from the powers that be to eliminate all choice and potential harm from us, the drones. It’s enough to drive you mad, thank god for mountain biking to get away from all of this, a chance to let loose, be free and truly do what you want to do, except that not even mountain biking is free from the shackles of H&S and landowners are particularly twitchy about their liabilities. You see trails have to be designed to be low risk, so more often than not that drop–off or gap jump that you wanted to build into the trail ain’t allowed as someone might hurt themselves on it which can come back to bite the landowner on the rump.

So what a breath of fresh air, for the iXS Macavalanche (for one day this year on the 30th April) the shackles were off at the refreshingly open minded Glencoe resort in the Highlands of Scotland. I guess the fun police missed their guy when Frazer Coupland (head honcho of No Fuss events) announced his intentions to host a mass start downhill race from the top of Glencoe Mountain to the bottom, starting in the snow and ferrying bikes and riders to the start by piste bashers and…a helicopter>>

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[part title="Macavalanche"]

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AL_Glencoe_Macavalanche_16

As the time for the uplift came closer there were plenty of excited faces waiting for the ride up with every man sharing just one common image of what a helicopter ride is all about from ‘that’ film. We loaded up group by group, but the pilot never did ask ‘shall we dance?’ And no Wagner was played on the approach to this battleground. Still it was one hell of a way to get to the start line and for some first time racers it must have felt like the apocalypse.

At the top of the mountain there was a stiff breeze, but you could not ask for a better day, the view was simply stunning looking right out across the wide and flat valley floor, into the heart of the highlands and miles and miles of wilderness.

With the bikes all lined up on a small remaining piece of snow the riders were ushered down the hill into a small holding area about 100 metres from the start line. They huddled together and waited for the helicopter to return back to the top of the mountain with the filmers on board. Then all of a sudden the chopper appeared over the mountain side and the klaxon was blown to start the first ever Macavalanche.

AL_Glencoe_Macavalanche_24
AL_Glencoe_Macavalanche_24

Piling headlong into steep, wet, grassy slopes and all too often into wheel sucking areas of bog, you couldn’t be further away from the sanitised biking that takes place around the country every weekend, this was as raw as it gets, every man to themselves, your own line, your own speed, but all together in a sinuous chain of madness. Then just as you were getting your teeth into it, it was soon to be over. The course opened up into the final section, a long 30mph grassy chute with ruts and holes to hop, dodge and avoid and plenty more of that peaty bog to catch you out if you choose poorly, negotiate this and you were at the bottom recounting the mishaps and events from the run.

The fastest rider, with a flawless ride from the front riding away from the pack, was highland king Joe Barnes in a time of just under eleven minutes. The slowest rider came in some seventeen minutes later, but with one of the biggest grins. He had conquered the hill and remarkably everyone had survived with no major incidents, mountain rescue left after an easy day on the hill. The pits were however full of stories of people’s crashes, wrong turns and mechanicals.

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AL_Glencoe_Macavalanche_66

Straight after the event Frazer was coy about the prospect of another Maca, he had rolled the dice when planning this event and come out on top, but it had clearly been a worrying and stressful time. That said, from the feedback of the riders who took part on the day, I’d be amazed if the Scottish Macavalanche doesn’t become a permanent fixture in the event’s diary.