Is it the toughest one-day race on the planet?
It’s Megavalanche time! If you – or someone you know – is thinking of doing the Mega then bookmark this page and forward it on to whom it may concern.
We all know the Megavalanche can be an absolutely crazy four days. These nine tips will help you tackle the challenge. And for general inspiration, check out the video above of Kelan Grant and Jackson Davis doing the Mega qualifier.
1. Prepare your lungs
The week of the Mega is a busy one — hours of training, hard terrain, high altitude, lots of transit time and single runs lasting up to and over an hour. To get the most out of it, get out on your bike and get the hours and miles up.
It doesn’t have to be too high intensity, instead keep it steady and try to stay out for over an hour and a half. The fitter you get, the better you’ll handle the whole week — both on and off the bike.
2. Gear up
The first year I competed I ran a single 36-tooth chainring and guide. Although it was reliable and worked well, the second year I swapped to a double with a smaller ring and it helped keep my cadence up and get me over the short, steep climbs without pushing.
Have a think about your gearing and remember, in the heat of the event those little sharp climbs can really slow you up. Whether it’s 11 speed or a double chainring, make sure your gears are right for the race.
3. Get set
The terrain on the Mega is pretty rough, particularly off the glacier at the start. You’re also likely to be riding a lighter, shorter-travel bike than you normally would in the Alps, making it tougher still.
Fit wide bars and a short stem – it’s amazing how these alone make a short-travel bike really stable in the fast and rough stuff.
Come qualification and race day, you’ll need to be able to change speed quickly, whether that’s to nip past a slower rider before some singletrack or get up the numerous short climbs and sprints.
Add some repeated sprints and intervals into your training if you really want the edge come race day. If you’re not well trained, keep your rests as long as your efforts and mix things up, from 30 seconds to three minutes.
5. Prepare to get higher
One thing that often catches British riders out is the altitude. The start line of the final is well above 3,000 metres and even the qualifier is pretty high.
Although there is little you can do in advance without having access to a pressurised hypobaric chamber, at least giving some thought to this added challenge in advance will help to settle your mind when you do notice the effects. Keep in mind, it’s the same for everyone and maintain deep, rhythmic breathing.
6. Make a mental map
The courses are long and there’s a lot of features to remember. In fact, it’s unlikely you’ll remember it all so rather than looking for every line, try and map out the whole trail and note any potential climbs, passing spots or technical sections.
Having a good idea of what’s ahead should be enough and by keeping your head up in the race, you should be able to spot any key lines in advance — just try not to get fixated on the rider in front and follow them like a sheep.
Likewise, having a mental map of the course will allow you to plan any passing moves at least a few metres in advance.
Pace yourself throughout training and racing. The week is long and the race will take a lot out of you. The chances of a mechanical are pretty high too so find a flow and stick to it.
Try to avoid getting over anxious and whacking into the first rock garden, only to get a puncture. Instead, think of the whole run — where you plan to push it and where you plan to rest up.
If you want to turn yourself inside out, do it on the pedals and keep the pace controllable on the technical sections. Your results can only benefit from sticking to this approach.
8. Loosen up
Arm pump is common if you’re not used to riding super-long descents. It’s a pain in your forearms brought on by reduced blood flow; the stress of the race can make you grip more tightly than normal, reducing the flow of blood and causing waste products to pool.
Keep a loose grip and don’t hang on for dear life all the time. Next up, look at your grips. Very fat grips can force you to hold on tightly, as can worn ones. Get a well fitting, fresh set of grips to help minimise arm cramping.
Finally, ride your bike as much as you can. Grip strength won’t necessarily make any difference but riding hours do help. So, get out on your Mega bike, on rough, fast and long descents as much as you can before the event.
9. Have faith
Riding with so many people, on trails that would be a challenge even if you were on your own, can be a daunting prospect. So just forget everyone else and enjoy the riding.
The trails are great fun if you keep the pressure off and just enjoy yourself. When you do get to the start, the helicopter takes to the air and your heart rate starts to rise, try to stay focused on the first corner and on having a good start.
The more focused you are on your own game, the better you’re likely to ride and the more you’ll take away from the experience. Only concern yourself with the factors you can influence. You’ll never be able to control the other riders, so don’t worry yourself about them.