Diary of a Megavalanche Virgin Part 1: A hill in Wales

Scottish rock...

If you’ve never really been interested in racing a mountain bike and wouldn’t really describe yourself as a mountain biker, then what better introduction to the world of competitive bike riding than the one of the toughest mass-start enduro events out there? Actually, there are plenty of better introductions but a challenge is supposed to be challenging – let us introduce Jenny, Megavalanche Virgin.

With 25 weeks to go before she needs to line up on a glacier in France, it’s time to get training…

I’ve been a climber for as long as I remember but about 6 years ago I got into mountain biking. I’m not what you would call a dedicated rider; I started off doing a lot of cross country but now favour riding downhill tracks. I enjoy the adrenaline rush it gives me going fast and slightly out of control. I’ve ridden a good variety of downhill and freeride tracks from the UK to France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. It may sound impressive but I don’t consider myself particularly great on a bike and I’ve never raced or been a competitive rider. I’m not a downhiller either – I’ve ridden the majority of places on my faithful old Commencal Meta 5.5 trail bike – bar a few where I’ve had to swap bikes for fear of my brain and eyeballs rattling out of my head.

As far as Megavalanche goes, I’ve been out to Alpe d’Huez a couple of times to watch and to do uplift for friends and family who’ve done it. I’ve always fancied it but never had the drive – until now. As with most of the adventurous things I seem to do, it started as a bit of a joke with my sister as she’s raced the Mega a few times. I started to come round to the idea – and figured “why not? I’ve got 6 months to train.”

What could be more inspiration to actually train than entering a race that has a mass start at 3330m on a glacier and down to 700m? So, I decided to start a blog on my training progress over the next six months and the actual race in July.

I paid my €94 entry fee (which includes uplift for the week) and started the training off  at my local down hill track near Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Later on that week I had an evening at Manchester’s National indoor BMX track with some of the Singletrack staff and friends. The jumps there looked like all or nothing -I opted for nothing and kept the bike firmly on the ground for most of the time.

It was a totally different kind of riding, but I felt I learnt something about my riding technique. I don’t use my legs as much as I thought I did whilst pumping but I found that to keep the speed high and the bike low I needed to push the bike down with my legs as well as my arms. I found it really satisfying realising this and then being able to use it to get around the track faster and smoother than before – I certainly felt it in my knees later on that evening though.

Just like summer in France.

Start small, work up (a mountain)

On Sunday 29th of January, snow was forecast for back home in Wales, so a few of us decided that pushing up and riding down Snowdon would be as good as the training gets over here in the UK. Well, it was certainly training for my brain! After a painful push up Llanberis track for a couple of hours it soon turned into a snow blizzard and we only made it about half way up. I’ve ridden down the Snowdon Ranger path before in the summer but the wind picked up and the snow kept coming. Goggles were needed for the push up and eventually after stopping for an iced sandwich and some hot ribena, we decided to head back down. It took all of 10 minutes and at the time hardly felt worth it.

However, better a bad day on the trails than a good day in the office. So far I have I found the hardest part of riding and training is all in my head. I hit a wall if I can’t do something or I’ve been riding for a couple of hours, my brain just says ‘no’. So not only will Mega be a test of physical stamina but a mental one too.

As for skills, I think I’ve got plenty to work on, but I might just know some people that can help me with that. More on that soon…

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