Words Jack Reading | Photo Hoshi Yoshida

The Megavalanche. Even hearing the title of the event can raise a mountain biker’s heart rate. Since its inception in 1995 riders have been throwing themselves from the top of Pic Blanc, high above Alpe D’Huez, in one of the most infamous mountain bike events in the world. After the mass start from the glaciated summit, the course drops 2600 vertical meters (8530 feet) and is 20 km long (12 miles). The adrenaline thrill of the mass start format is extremely intense. Whether you are a competitor starting on the front row, or one starting in the middle of the pack, everyone feels the magnitude of the unknown. What will happen when the tape lifts, and everyone charges forwards?


2022 brought us a spectacular Megavalanche


Riders are lined up based on their results in the qualifying race the day before, fastest riders on the front row, working back to the slowest riders at the back. This means a good start and being fast on the snow is critical for a good result, otherwise you’ll end up being stuck in a queue on the single track with limited passing places. The high altitude means the air is very thin, adding another challenge for the athletes competing in the event. The race track isn’t just downhill, it throws in a long flat section followed by a 3 minute climb at the mid way point. The lower oxygen level in the air means riders have to be extremely fit if they hope to be competitive in the race. This year the amount of snow on the glacier was much less than normal, adding an additional challenge for the riders. They would have to navigate the transitions between snow and rocks, up to speeds of 70 mph in places. 

Starting on the glacier the course then moves to rocky downhill single track, and after about 10/15 minutes gradually starts to see more and more climbs and flat sections spacing out the sections of single track. Riders traverse around the mountain on a long flat section just above the Alpe D’Huez village, which finishes with a steep 3 minute climb. By this point riders will have been riding for about 20 minutes or more depending on their speed. Next there are some bike park style sections and wooded single track, spaced apart by fire roads and some short climbs. For 2022 there was an entirely new section just before riders hit the village of Oz, with some very steep and tight corners to negotiate. The race can take a rider anything from a little over 40 minutes for the fastest, to over an hour for the average rider. 

SR SUNTOUR had a very strong group of Werx Athletes representing them this year. From the sport of downhill, George Brannigan, Kye Ahern and Tracy Hannah of NS UR team were nervously excited for their first Megavalanche encounter. Jack Reading of SR SUNTOUR Commencal by Gravity School was ready to take to Pic Blanc again, after his 4th place finish in his first attempt at the race in 2021. From the enduro world, defending champion Stefan Peter was back to do everything he could to take the win again this year. Also in attendance was Hugo Pigeon who won the Reunion Island Mega in 2021, Liam Moynihan, James Shirely, Mirco Widmer, Mike Schuler, Emeric Ienzer, Nico Quéré, Premek Tejchman, Frank Schneider and Florian Grohens. Two of our talented slopestyle riders Sam Reynolds and Marc Diekmann were also in town to race, as well as Dylan Crane who races downhill and enduro and is the SR SUNTOUR social media manager.

For the first time in 2022, the new SR SUNTOUR DUROLUX38 fork with our EQ system was available to our athletes to use at this event. With it’s wider stantions providing added stiffness and an improved feel, our riders were really excited to get our on the track this week and try it out, and in the ultimate testing ground, the rough and rocky trails of the Megavalanche.

For the first time in 2022, the new SR SUNTOUR DUROLUX38 fork with our EQ system was available to our athletes to use at this event.

The qualifying race on Saturday is critical because finishing top 3 in your heat is the only way to guarantee a front row start for the race on Sunday. Our Werx athletes had a great day out and starting on the front row were Stefan Peter, Hugo Pigeon, Jack Reading, Liam Moynihan, George Brannigan, Kye Ahern, James Shirley, Mirco Widmer and Mike Schuler. Nico Quéré and Premek Tejchman would start just beind them on the second row. Unfortunately Tracy Hannah was racing the EBike Mega and she had a big crash in her qualifying heat, being taken out by another rider who was crashing, and suffered a concussion. Thankfully she’s now okay but it was really sad to see her taken out of the race before it started.

Conditions on the glacier this year were terrifying. Far less snow meant long sections of boulders with multiple line choices. The best plan was to not have a plan, but be aware of the line options you had and be adaptable during your race depending on other riders and what was happening around you at the time. The start line was half snow and half rocks, so the front row riders who had qualified the best, got the opportunity to select their preferred starting positions. The snow was definitely the place the riders chose, as the rocky start looked much less predictable and give riders a much more challenging route to the first corner. The snow was not, however, a line with guaranteed success, as after about 40 metres it turned right and went off camber, meaning riders were at risk of washing out. There was a high chance of a lead group crash and consequent pile up, so all of the riders were very nervous for the start of the race this year.


The best plan was to not have a plan, but be aware of the line options you had and be adaptable during your race depending on other riders and what was happening around you at the time.


When the was tape lifted and the riders charged forwards, some our SR SUNTOUR athletes got great starts. Mirco Widmer was in 2nd place and Jack Reading was in 3rd, with defending champion Stefan Peter not far behind in the top 10. After the snow the riders were filtered into a narrow road, before braking hard and turning left into a wild boulder field with lines everywhere. A number of riders held the tight line on the right, which was the shortest way to the next corner where they re-joined the snow, but it involved the most risk because there were so many big loose rocks, that could cause a crash or damage the bike. Other riders chose the longer line that swept round the left of the boulder field, which was much smoother, but was a further distance to travel.

When the riders re-joined snow they were in for a surprise. Most of them thought the snow would be hardpack for the lead group after being “piste bashed” by the snow cat in the morning. Unfortunately it was already too warm and soft, and this meant the bikes didn’t glide across the top giving the rider great speed and control, but instead it sank in and twitched around creating ruts for the following riders and making control very difficult to find. The lead group still managed speeds of up to 60 mph down the longest, steepest and straightest section of the glacier, but once it turned right and levelled out, they had to dismount their bikes and run through the snow. The only rider who was light enough, and powerful enough, to ride their bike across the top of the snow through this section was our athlete Hugo Pigeon, who went from 8th to 1st in this section and extended a considerable lead.

As the singletrack started Hugo Pigeon and Stefan Peter were running in the top 3. Unfortunately Hugo damaged his bike in this section and had to retire from the lead of the race. Running in the top 10 were Jack and Mirco who were battling with other riders for positions. Mirco also suffered a mechanical and had to retire from the race. As the climbing started in the middle of the course, Liam Moynihan worked his way from outside the top 10, into the top 5, with an impressive show of endurance. He went on to ride in the lead group and finish in a career best 2nd place. Emeric worked his way through the pack to finish in a strong 8th place and Jack used his downhill strengths to hang on to a top 10 position, finishing in 9th place. Stefan Peter survived battles for the lead with Damion Oton and Killian Bron who both had punctures, before riding his bike home to a second Megavalanche win in a row, showing he is a true Megavalanche Champion. Dylan crane started on the back row because he missed the qualifying race, and still finished in 33rd passing over 240 riders which is a very impressive ride.

2022 brought us a spectacular Megavalanche. It was fantastic to see Stefan Peter defend his title, winning the race for the second time in a row. Congratulation to him and Liam Moynihan who finished in a strong 2nd place with a fantastic ride. An SR SUNTOUR “one two” at the top of the podium, as well as Emeric Ienzer and Jack Reading in the top 10 and strong performances from our other Werx Athletes makes the event a huge success for us. It was amazing to see our new DUROLUX38 fork working so well and helping our athletes ride to their success. Looking forward to next year already!


It was fantastic to see Stefan Peter defend his title, winning the race for the second time in a row.