Last Saturday saw the inaugural Macavalanche race at Glencoe organised by No Fuss. Anyone who knows about the Megavalanche will understand the idea behind this event – a mass start downhill race from the top of a snow covered mountain to the lowest lift station below. The Mega attracts 2000 riders from all over the World, the Macavalanche is to be Scotland’s own mini version of this with 100 riders aiming to be crowned king of the mountain. The Scottish event would, however, ace the French with one important aspect – getting to the top for the start of the race would be by helicopter!

With the race being oversubscribed by around three times, the first challenge was to actually get a place. After months of waiting, both me and Lyndsey finally got the emails we were waiting for with our invites (inviting us to part with £112, cough, helicopters ain’t cheap!). As soon as I had paid, I must admit that my nerves started to get the better of me. Coupled with my knackered back brought about from skiing/crashing down the slopes of Glencoe this winter, and reading the who’s who list of entrants, my only aim for the race was to complete it without the need for a second helicopter ride, this time courtesy of mountain rescue. In short, I was crapping myself!

With the weather looking to be perfect for the race we headed up to Glencoe at 6am. Blue skies, sunshine and rows of pro-team vans greeted us on our arrival at the ski centre. We signed on and were told the plan for the day. First thing was to get the bikes to the summit of Meall a’ Bhuiridh 1108m. For this we would first take the chairlift to the Eagle’s Rest, then from there, ride to the Cliffhanger chairlift. As it was impossible to use the safety bar, this second chairlift would prove to be one of the scariest thing we’d do all day – holding your bike on your knee with one hand and swinging around holding the seat with the other (while taking photos) made for a exciting ride! Once back on terra firma it was the long slog up the main basin to the top. Half an hour later we were at the snow covered start line. Perfect visibility gave us great views, but also let us see the task in hand and the amount of rock that we’d have to negotiate on the way back down. Unlike nearly every other type of race, there would be no practice. The walk back down the mountain would give us a chance to scope out the best lines and make mental notes of which rocks and holes to avoid. Great in theory, but after about two minutes and countless jaggy rocks, huge holes and ravines my brain was full!

After an hour of scrambling down the slopes we were at the finish line (still crapping it I might add) and it was time for the race briefing. The cafe was jam packed with top riders who all looked pretty calm and collected about the whole thing! Some of them even looked to be enjoying themselves! I’d just have to out-psyche them with my new basquemtb.com kit on courtesy of Doug McDonald – they’d obviously be very worried about who this foreign dude was coming over to claim the win. NOT! So, off to get changed into my gleaming new kit and set off for the helicopter.

Flight number nine saw five of us, including Rowen Sorrell and Ace the mad metalist from the Hard Tail Nation/Dirt team, set off on our flight to the summit. It was truly an awesome experience. Scotland looks pretty fine from ground level when it’s bathed in sunshine, but from the seat of a helicopter it is surely one of the most magnificent places on Earth. Almost as magnificent, was the skill of our pilot who managed, time after time, to land on a tiny piece of rock at the summit – and surprisingly for me, I didn’t need a sick bag (“if you need it, just use your helmet son”).

Finally, on to the race. The start was to be a Le Mans style run up to collect your bike on the snow. This was to prove to be my undoing. After deciding to leave off the painkillers in order to have a clear head for the descent, my attempt at running resembled more Charlie Chaplin than Hussein Bolt. I’m sure by the time I got to my steed I was dead last. On the plus side, I was treated to a full view of the carnage unfolding in front of me. In the far off distance, I could see Joe Barnes disappearing down the mountain. Behind him, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many folk go arse over tits (outside of the Mega of course). It was great! The snow was murder, most folk resorting to running with their bikes after pathetic attempts at riding. Once on the jaggy rocks it was time to get serious. This was my favourite bit of the race – brakes off, full commitment and go for it. One guy, who I’d already seen fly over his bars on the snow, decided to take the highest line possible through the first section of rock, only to then bin it at the top and pass me Superman style without his bike. The only option I had was to then run him over. If only this was Death Race 2000! On the plateau things got a bit more civilized and it was now a case of pedaling like a madman. Saddle up, saddle down, saddle up, saddle down. The gravity dropper was getting a full workout, but was soon retired as the track changed to steep boggy heather with loads of hidden rocks. Cue more over the bars action from the guys I was chasing down. So far, I’d passed around two dozen riders and only been pass by one guy on a dh bike. When I say guy, I really mean looney, I reckon he must have been doing about 50mph! With the finish line in sight, I managed to get the better of another rider and was greeted by loads of other happy and relieved riders. My final placing was 64th, with no crashes. Yay! A quick dash back to the van for my camera and I was able to catch Ace (81st) and Lyndsey (88th) come in unscathed too.

The honours of the day went to the Barnes family, Joe destroying everyone in sight with an amazing time of around 10 minutes, and his sister Hannah winning the senior Ladies. Neil Donoghue and Danny MacAskill were second and third respectively and my pre race favourite, James Shirley was 6th after getting lost half way down the track.

Thanks to Frazer and his team at No Fuss for putting on such a great event.


Flickr photos are here:


Ace’s report for Dirt magazine: