Reflections on the Megavalanche Île de La Réunion 2012
In the middle of the Indian Ocean just 200km south west of Mauritius, lies the tropical Réunion Island. With a warm climate, extensive trails and stunning volcanoes towering to 3070m it is a true mountain bikers paradise. The Megavalanche Réunion, like its namesake in Alpe D’Huez, is a mass start long distance downhill, starting at the top of the Maido Volcano (2200m) and dropping over a total distance of 20.8km to the coastal city of St Paul. This year 311 riders battled the heat and dust, trying to take top spot on the podium, held previously by true legends of the sport such as Steve Peat, Cedric Gracia and Nico Vouilloz.
Entry to the race is cheap, but getting to La Reunion Island is an expensive process.
Night view of the bungalow in Village du Corail that hosted most of the riders
Night view of the local town Saint Gilles les Bains
Sunset from the volcano in the south of the island Piton De La Fournaise
Saturday was the all important qualification day, with riders fighting for a position on the all important front row of the mass start. Positions were decided using an 35km enduro style race with 4 timed downhill special stages connected by a pedalled transfer. The weather was dry and hot, and with many big names attending, the stage was set for some very exciting racing.
Stage 1 dropped from the Maido volcano over a 4.2km technical course through tough volcanic terrain. Nicolas Lau (Cube Bikes France) dominated the stage with a time of 8m 10s, a full 8 seconds ahead of second place Cedric Gracia (Brigade Andorra). Anne Caro Chausson (IBIS France) smashed the ladies field with a time of 10m 16s.
Stage 2 was a long 6km single track blast in the woods, with a fierce 1.5km climb in the middle. Vegetation overhanging the flowing trail made overtaking difficult. Remy Absalon (Commencal France) found his pace winning by a clear 9 seconds with a time of 11m35s, while Anne Caro dominated again with a time of 14m08s
Stage 3 was more a test of fitness and determination than technical skill comprising an all out 2km pedal on a gravel road. This time Cedric Gracia took the lead by just a second with a time of 4m39s, while again Anne Caro took the win with a time of 5m11s.
With the top 3 riders separated by mere seconds it was all to play for at the start of Stage 4, a 2km bike-park style stage with flowing berms and jumps. Cedric Gracia took the win, but not by enough to unseat Remy Absalon from the top spot, leaving Nico Lau in second overall and Cedric third. Anne Caro predictably took the pole position in the ladies.
Cedric Gracia practice on the first part of the Megavalanche track (1st special stage)
Vittorio Gambirasio on the first part of the Megavalanche track (1st special stage)
Florian Golay in the first woods section facing some roots
Video shooting with 26in and Nico Quere in the local Bike park Dos d’âne
A local rider on the special stage 2 during the practice
Vittorio Gambirasio on Stage 2
Transfer stage from Stage 1 to Stage 2
Clouds coming up from the Cirque de Mafate just behind the starting point of the race
Florian Golay on Stage 4
Anne Caro Chausson dominating Stage 4
Riders heading home from Stage 4.
Commencal bungalow at Village du Corail
Bikes and riders at the beach at the end of the race
With the first of the mass start waves leaving at 9:30am, riders were woken very early to begin shuttling to the top of the Maido Volcano. The first 100 riders included all the top riders in the event, however a combination of an aggressive start and narrowing road led to a huge collision just meters into the course. Nico Quere, Vittorio Gambirasio, Gustav Wildhaber and Jordan Renier went down hard while Julien Absalon, Cedric Gracia and many others were held up while half the pack broke away. The race lasted nearly three quarters of an hour while riders fought to regain position over the tough course. Despite overtaking a huge chunk of the field Remy Absalon suffered mechanical issues and could not secure a podium spot. Nicolas Lau was charging and with a clean run rode to victory with a time of 42m42s, closely followed by Aurelien Giordanengo (Top Cycles France) and Cedric Gracia to take 2nd and 3rd respectively. Anne Caro conquered the female field to take top spot.
Words: Trev Worsey
Images curtesy of Laura at www.rockinthemiddle.com