Words: Clive Forth
The opening round of this year’s Megaenduro 2RX European Cup (previously MaxiAvalanche) took place at the weekend in the spectacular bike park of Vallnord, Andorra. Located in the heart of the Pyrenees, just above the picturesque town of La Massana, the venue is a favourite amongst riders, myself included. I wanted to make my return journey to the place where I first competed in this type of event back in 2006.
This year would see some hot competition in all categories with some interesting characters lined up on the start grid ready to fight it out for first place.
For me, what started out as a routine training exercise became a quest to track down riders for exclusive interviews with some pressing questions on the subject of the drugs in enduro incident… More on this tomorrow.
The race format
For those of you not familiar with the format, let me enlighten you. The newly named Megaenduro 2RX is a rebadged version of the previous Avalanche Cup, the opening round in Vallnord took the same format as the previous MaxiAvalanche, riders compete head to head down the mountain in a qualification race on Saturday to get a grid position for the two main race events on Sunday, they then score points according to there position in each race which are combined to give the overall result.
With riders lined up 25 abreast the top five from each heat would go onto the front row in the finals, riders six to ten go onto the second row and so on until a full grid of one hundred riders make up the main race (A final also called Scratch). From the five heats any remaining riders would then start to form the following grid and would race in what is essentially the B and C final, those of you who’ve ridden at Mega Avalanche will be familiar with this format of racing.
The opening mountain top sections have had some upgrades and the race track now joins into purpose-built trail before entering some superb natural singletrack which links down to the main lift station at Vallnord, from here the remaining kilometres take the riders through scenic woodland into the steep final part of the mountain, once again new sections of trail have been cut removing the long, arduous “out and back” singletrack, the course now simply drops you down the front of the hill through some superb steep terrain.
Karim Amour representing Kona World would take the win in Heat One, back from some time off through the winter having suffered a broken collarbone, Karim was keen to re-build his confidence and put in a solid run in the main A final. In Heat Two Mega veteran Franck Parolin, racing for team Giant/Vertical Bike, would take the win to line up alongside Heat Three winner Lago Garay. Heat Four winner and downhill legend Tomas Misser, riding for his own Guak brand, would join them on the front row with Nicolas Filippi winner from Heat Five alongside, also making it up on row one and representing the UK was Ian Austermuhle.
In the ladies qualification race Hanna Oletra from Sweden came in 1st with Audray Le Corguille from France in 2nd and Angela Pendry riding for Altitude Adventures in 3rd.
Saturday evening and I was back in a scene from Crocodile Dundee, washing clothes in the bath thinking how good was to be back at a Maxi event. It was also time for the pasta party and my first opportunity to track down two key individuals for interviews, unfortunately there were nowhere to be seen!
I did however bump into Tomas Misser, who kindly gave up some of his time to sit down and have a chat. Tomas may be familiar to many of you but the younger riders out there might not be aware of his capabilities and achievements. The former World Cup downhill race winner has never really left the race scene, a previous winner of this type of event he has also just won his category (masters) in the Andalusian 6 day stage race. A superb athlete and all round nice guy, you can read the full interview with Tomas in my regular column, “The Opposite Pedal”, in the coming weeks.
Back to racing and back to the search, we awoke on Sunday morning with sun shining and temperatures set to be above 30°, not only was this going to be a hotly contested competition but it was going to be another scorching hot day in the Pyrenees.
Having picked up communications from Bike Magic HQ my game plan for Sunday had changed, I chose not to line up on the grid but instead pursue those interesting characters from row one to get interviews, so feeling like a skinny white Oprah Winfrey I made my way to the start grid where I caught up with Karim Amour and Franck Parolin, this was going to be no easy feat for me as I’ve come to know these guys over the many years of racing these events, fortunately they were happy to have a chat and they both gave up time away from their warm-up preparations for a few words. Fair play to both of them they even continued to talk about their mountain bike experiences while lined up on the grid just minutes before the start of race one.
I addressed the hot subject of doping in enduro and both riders had plenty to say on the subject, you can read more about this later in the week in a Bike Magic exclusive.
Race one started off relatively incident free: Franck Parolin went into the lead through the opening turns, Karim, Nicolas and Tomas slotted in behind as they headed across open ground towards the first section of woodland, the field strung out behind them and the dust bomb began. A long ribbon of riders snaked their way across the mountainside while the helicopter hovered above following their every move.
By the halfway lift station the order at the front remained the same although the first three had pulled a slight gap, throughout the lower sections Tomas managed to make up some ground and positions changed as they battled through the steep rough terrain to the finish line where Karim popped out of the trees crossing the finish line first just ahead of Frank, with Tomas in 3rd and Nicolas in 4th. The women’s first race was won by Audrey Le Corguille ahead of Hanna Oletra with Angela Pendry in 3rd.
Back up in the star grid for race two and a jump start by Karim cause carnage as the tapes tangled up amongst the riders splitting the field. Tomas Misser got away clean and went on to win race two ahead of Franck Parolin and Nicolas Fillipi in a cosy 3rd slot. The second women’s race was won by Pauline Petit of BH Bikes with Audrey Le Corguille in 2nd and Hanna Oltera in 3rd slot.
The points were calculated from the two race runs and with Karim way down the field in 25th in the second run it was Tomas Misser who took the overall win with Franck Parolin in 2nd and Nicolas Fillipi in 3rd.
Men final result:
1st Tomas Misser – Guak
2nd Franck Parolin – Giant/Vertical Bike
3rd Nicolas Fillipi – Giant/OffRoad Team
Women final result:
1st Audrey Le Corguille – Saint Brieuc BMX
2nd Hanna Oletra – Dreamrideholidays
3rd Pauline Petit – BH Bikes
For full category results head over to the Mega site and follow the drop down menu.
Thank you to George Edwards and the event team, Vallnord Bike Park and all the riders for another great event, Special thanks to Cyril Charpin for the photo’s and of course to my sponsors Transition Bikes, BOS Suspension, Garmin, Guak Clothing, Mule Bar and Kore.
Don’t forget to tune in later in the week for the interviews in “Talk to Frank”. Till next time, be lucky…