MB Enduro Megeve

Scraping the barrel this week for photos.....

Another weekend, another race.

For the last 5 years Megeve has been publicising the opening of it’s lifts for the summer with “the most difficult race in the world”, a 140km, 7000m +/- marathon race that in the 2010 running only 1 of the 600 starters finished.

That sounds a bit much like hard work, so fortunately they also have a 1 day enduro using the Portes du Mont Blanc network of lifts.

Being close to Chamonix there were a few familiar faces dotting about the paddock. The entry forms implied you could choose the riders you wish to race with so we had hoped that Nina, Ally, Spence (here for his first ever race) & I would all get to start at similar times. Instead Nina started 1st with the girls, I was mid pack and Ally & Spence were in the last 10.

The sum total of the information we had to the trails. Not only did the actual traces not resemble this, they weren't even in this order!

Most of us had ridden in Megeve before, me only in the dry (more here) and Nina and Ally only in the wet. In the dry the trails looked well drained, but Nina and Ally said otherwise. An overnight storm meant the trails were pretty slick, but the forecast was for sunshine and light winds so the trail would probably dry out. Mud tyres or normal tyres? Looking about the paddock there was a mix from brand new Swamp Things to virtually bald High Rollers. In the end inertia chose for us and we all went with whatever was on our bikes already.

After some hectic running about Megeve trying to find where to register, we headed up on the Jaillet lift for the 1st of 6 stages. The stages were being ridden properly blind. Not only was there no practice runs, the only clue we had to what was coming was a (highly inaccurate it turned out) profile trace on the back of our race numbers. I’d done some reconnaissance (i.e., looking at previous years headcam footage on vimeo) the week before so figured there would be a mix of bike park, fire road and fresh cut loam.

I was completely correct for 5 of the 6 stages. Each one was some fun but generic bike park berms n rolls, great fresh cut trails through the forest which reminded Ally and me of our days racing the Scottish series in the borders, and brutal, brutal climbs. If it hadn’t been for the climbs then any of the stage could have been all time great trails, but instead some parts felt more like an XC race than an enduro. I think I’m fairly fit and I couldn’t even run up some of the climbs let alone ride. It showed the gulf between normal riders and the pros when we heard that the same climbs were getting ridden up by the fast boys.

Fast lad Nico Lau on his way to second behind Francois Bailly-Maitre

Normally I’d have a mix of Spence’s photos and the official event video to save you from relying on my description of the riding, but Spence was racing and the official video will be mostly about a 140km death loop, so instead you’ll just have to use a mix of my description and some crappy i-phone pictures.

Stage 5 was the highlight for me (ignoring the killer climbs) which pretty much went straight down the hill in a loam trench. Sometimes twisting through natural bobsleigh runs, sometimes just hanging off the back of the bike hoping you don’t catch a root. Running in the middle of the pack meant you could feel the roost of loam over your legs as if skiing powder, even Spence & Ally at the back of the field had the same which shows how deep the brown pow was.

This isn't me trying to be arty, I just as close as I got to a photo of Nina on stage 6.

Another reminder of the SCU races was the amount of grip. Stages 1 & 2 were almost tractionless most of the time, and completely tractionless in the roots. It was amazing! It did also mean the bikes gained several kg of mud each stage, fortunately the organisers provided enduro specific sticks and puddles at each chairlift to help us clean the bikes. Less fortunately timing issues meant that stage 2 was not included in the overall results, Ally & I were particularly gutted as we both were definitely the fastest riders of the day and easily made up 5 minutes on the lead. Or something.

Spence's first finish

Stage 6 was not wet or loamy. Dry tarmac and cobbles instead for an urban stage through the posh centre of Megeve. Lots of fun, and always amazing to see how many random people line the barriers for these things to cheer you on, but despite finishing at a lower height than it started it felt like a 2 minute hill climb and was pretty brutal on the legs.

Ally, having found the last stage brutal on the legs.

Not being a national level race we were all hoping for better results than usual, or at least, Nina and I were. Ally hadn’t raced since he was on the Scottish development team about a decade ago, and Spence had never raced at all, so was at least guaranteed a pb by finishing.

Nina rode consistently well, no crashes and overtaking several riders each stage, but was denied a podium place in 4th and 123rd of the 170 finishers. Spencer tried, but failed, to take Nina’s crown of stupidest rider induced mechanical in a race by knocking his forks to lock-out during a crash on stage 1, and not noticing until stage 3. His times improved dramatically from there and he got his pb as 70th man. Ally had a solid ride for his first race in about 10 years, staying pretty much upright for all 6 stages and cruising into 30th in men.

Do you ever find it weird that the finishline, where you're at your most gubbed, is where you're expected to chat and smile for the camera?

My race was going well, riding well within myself and happy to be not too far off the times of Nico Lau given how physical the stages were, until the 4th (or 3rd timed) stage. About half way down my derailleur caught into my wheel, mangling it and snapping my chain. I picked up the remains before running and freewheeling the rest of the stage, then ran the mile or so back to the car to put on a new mech hanger, fix the chain and bodge the derailleur as best I could. I was able to continue with the middle 5 gears of the block more or less working, but worried any impact or hard pedalling would be the end of the mech. Given all this, I was pretty happy with 18th overall.

That’s the racing over for a while now, time to get back to just going out riding.

Yay for free beer.