• Megavalanche 2021

    CELEBRATING THE 25th anniversary

    Words Jack Reading | Photo Hoshi Yoshida


»The unknown element of starting on the snow with a huge group of riders, is both exciting and terrifying…«


The Megavalanche is one of the most infamous mountain bike events in the world. Racing a MTB down a glacier, to any “normal” person that’s just crazy, right? No no, not to the 100’s of riders who line up at the top of the Alpe D’Huez glacier every year for one of the biggest MTB adrenaline rushes you can get. To them it’s one sweet natural high. Most of the riders, who have raced the Megavalanche over the years, will agree that once you’ve made the decision to enter the race for the first time, you instantly feel nervous. The unknown element of starting on the snow with a huge group of riders, is both exciting and terrifying.

The event format, for those not entirely sure, is a mass start from the glaciated summit of Pic Blanc, high above the village of Alpe D’Huez, all the way down to the village of Allemond in the valley bottom. The course drops 2600 vertical meters (8530 feet) and is 20 km long (12 miles). 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. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Megavalanche, and that is so impressive thinking back to the bikes that must have been ridden down that glacier in the late 90’s. There are usually between 1000 and 2000 riders that start the race, but because of Covid-19 restriction in 2021, the event saw 700 manage to make the start line.

The amazing Alpe D’Huez mountains are the setting for the Megavalanche, and are one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the world. The town itself sits at an altitude of 1250m and the peak rises to 3330m where the race starts, providing some of the most beautiful terrain to race mountain bikes. 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 SR Suntour had some very exciting Werx arthletes in attendance. From the downhill side, Mick “Sick Mick” Hannah of NS UR team along with Jack Reading and Dan Slack of SR Suntour Commencal Racing were ready to have a go at the Megavalanche for the first time. Actually that’s not entirely true. In 2007 Sick Mick attended the race, but was involved in a crash in the first turn which destroyed his wheel and took him out of the race. This time he was hoping to make it a bit further down the course.

It is said to be the hardest MTB mass start race in the world. Quentin Richard is part of the organising team and in charge for the best spot for our logo branding.

Mick Hannah is racing down the glacier at full speed. Fast riders reach more than 90km/h on the glacier piste. “Sick Mick” is for sure one of them.

Dan Slack practicing the qualification course.
A little photo session at the end of the practice day with "Sik Mick" Hannah.

From the enduro world, Torben Drach, Liam Moynihan, Nico Quéré and Premek Tejchman were excited to get racing. Also at the event was David Hovarth, who crashed badly at the Val di Sole downhill world cup in 2019 and since that accident hasn’t been able to walk. He rides a recumbent bike fitted out with SR Suntour suspension and was hoping to be the first rider on this kind of MTB to compete in the Megavalanche. Unfortunately David experienced a problem with the motor powering the bike, which means he will have to wait until 2022 to attack the course.

Practice on the glacier was a mad experience for everyone. Before the race the whole glacier is groomed and graded like it would be during a ski season, but they don’t do this for the practice sessions, so the snow is very soft and there are lots of ruts and holes. This makes it almost impossible to ride. So the athletes and the media guys had a very entertaining session up there for practice, with lots of legs being thrown around, people riding sitting on their back tyres, and of course lots of crashes. The course itself is a beast. Glacier to start, and some riders hit up to 70mph up here. It then moves to a rocky single track for about 6 minutes, which has great flow and next to no climbing. There are very few passing places on this section, which can be frustrating if you’ve had a bad start on the glacier and are stuck behind slower riders. Then it gradually starts to see more and more climbs and flat sections spacing out the sections of single track. After about 15 minutes, a long flat section starts as riders traverse around the hill just above the Alpe D’Huez village. This finishes with a 3 minute climb to get over to the top of the slope that drops you down into Allemond. From here the riders can enjoy 15 to 20 minutes of wooded single track, spaced apart by short punchy climbs and flat fire road sections. There are lots of passing places in the woods which can make for exciting racing for both riders and spectators. The whole course takes a little over 40 minutes for the best, and is over an hour for the average rider.

The qualifying race on Saturday is very important, because the better your result, the closer to the front you start on the glacier. This is also a mass start, and in 2021 to guarantee a front row starting position you needed to finish in the top 5 in your qualifying heat. Our Werx athletes had a great day out. Dan Slack was in heat 1 and won his heat. Jack and Liam were together in heat 4 and finished 1st and 2nd respectively. Sick Mick and Torben were also successful, finishing 2nd and 1st respectively in heat 6, with Torben taking the fastest time of the day in qualifying of 14 minutes 8 seconds, just ahead of Jack and Dan. Nico and Premek also finished top 5 in their heats, which meant all 7 of our Werx riders were set to start front row in the main race.


The amazing Alpe D’Huez mountains are the setting for the Megavalanche, and are one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the world.


Nico Quéré is always a contender for the win.
Dan Slack from the SR SUNTOUR Commencal Racing Team. He wins his qualification heat.
The A-startline is filling up from left to right: Torben Drach, Liam Moynihan, Dan Slack and Jack Reading.

The start of the Megavalanche is simply electrifying. At 6.30am you climb into the gondola and leave the bottom. You arrive at the top with the sun and get the most amazing view of the surrounding mountain ranges. You feel like you can reach out and touch the Les Deux Alpe Glacier on the opposite side of the valley. Of course it’s very cold, but there is enough going on to distract you from this. Riders are invited, in qualifying order, to go and line up their bikes at the start, fastest qualifier first, all the way down to the rider with the slowest qualifying time at the rear. The organisers aim to start the race at 9am, but they can delay things slightly to wait for the ice to melt on the glacier piste, and give riders the best possible conditions. Next the helicopter appears, and starts circling around the summit over the riders’ heads, and music starts blasting from the sound system. This exhilarating atmosphere is perfect for the occasion. Jack Reading described the build up, and the start of the race as one of the most intense MTB experiences he’s had in his career. Staring over the edge of the glacier, knowing he had to charge off the start as fast as he could and keep pedalling as the slope dropped away in front of him, in a mad rush to be first man out of the first corner. The riders are given 30 seconds, then a board that says 10 seconds, and anytime after this the board can be pulled away, the tape pulled up, and away they go.

As soon as that tape goes up it’s a daring battle of who can pedal the hardest and brake the latest into the first corner. It’s so important to get a good start, and for Jack and Mick it was just that. Jack’s plan worked and he made it to the first corner in the lead and was out front for most of the glacier. He lost the lead at the end of the snow, getting a line wrong into a fast corner before a flat section. A consequence of it being his first time riding the glacier at full speed. Jack left the glacier in 2nd place and managed to have a good race finishing in 4th place. You can watch his race run over on his YouTube channel.

Sick Mick came off the glacier in 3rd and after a great battle with Dan finished in 16th place. Dan, Torben and Liam didn’t have a good start and all came off the glacier in bad positions after being involved in pile-ups. Dan worked his way back from around 50th place when he left the glacier into an impressive 15th. Liam also had a mechanical problem, and then rode hard to an impressive 9th place. Torben used his enduro fitness to work his way through the riders after the glacier, and was only 10 seconds behind Jack in 5th after the climb. He and Jack then battled all the way to the finish with Torben crossing the line in 5th place. Nico had a mechanical problem and finished in 31st place.

2021 was an amazing Megavalanche. With two SR Suntour riders on the podium it was a successful race for us, well done Jack and Torben, who managed this at their first attempt at the race. Both athletes are excited to improve on this in 2022 now they have some experience. It really is a fantastic event, and we highly recommend it all serious mountain bikers, so make sure you add it to your bucket list, and head to Alpe D’Huez to experience it for yourself!.

»2021 was an amazing Megavalanche. With two SR Suntour riders on the podium it was a successful race for us, well done Jack and Torben…«


Abby Hogie was the only lady in our team. We need more ladies at the Mega, where are you?
This is the A-Startline for the finals. And seven SR SUNTOUR athletes made it onto the pole position.