Other Bike Events You Might Consider
Events that you can gain from if you're ready and prepared for them. They will take a lot of preparation, training and probably expense, but can be awesome experiences. Here they are ranked in order of relative lunacy:
Tour De Ben Nevis
Passports Du Soleil
Glen Coe Enduro
No Fuss tour de ben nevis
This is effectively a monster day out in the hills around Ben Nevis. Starting with a parade along the high street in Fort William, the event rapidly turns uphill and takes the road up toward the back of Cow Hill, and then on to the West Highland Way and off to Kinlochleven. The first timed descent is then from the WHW down to the town on a winding, often rocky, and drainage ditch festooned whoop fest. Unfortunately for legs and lungs you then have to gain the trail up above Mamore Lodge, and then head out toward Spean Bridge via the river crossing at Luibelt, a crossing often ranging from ankle to knee depth, and able to change rapidly during the day. From hereabouts another timed section leads up (hike a bike) and over to descend (mad full pelt single track) to the valley above Spean Bridge, and then onto the forest trails leading back toward Fort William. The timed sections are designed that some suit cross country fiends, and others mad trail hounds, some handrail, some full suss. The atmosphere is as much festival as event, and numerous 'competitors' have paused mid section for a pic-nick. At about 75km it's not to be taken lightly, but an event to be completed with pride. (from David's Account)
passeportes du soleil
Another monster day out, this event is an epic experience; big mountains, and big riding. Not to be taken lightly, or rushed at, with a bit of preparation the event can form the main part of a multi-day epic trip to the French/Swiss border region of the Alps. The event links all the main ski resorts in the passeportes area using ski lifts for almost all the ascents and all manner of trails for the descents. The whole route can be up to 90km, but (not realised by us until later) you can miss sections out so you don't have to rush. The trails take in blue and red graded downhill trails, flat out fire roads, high mountain trails, bits of road, monster berms, flowing trail rocky paths etc etc. Borne of misfortune I can say that the person with the full on 40a sticky rubber 3.5inch downhill tyres will be the happiest as others will have to beware of punctures throughout. From experience I can say that rushing to get the last lift at the bottom of a rocky hill track requires balancing the need for speed with the concern for the chaos (and potential very long hike a bike) that a puncture's time delay will bring. For the record 3 punctures in the day. Never technically particularly difficult, the trails in the region (at blue and red at least) build your nerve and the scenery is beautiful, but it's quite taxing for the bike - one stem, three innertubes, one star nut, and one complete brake bleed - 4 days of riding. Well recommended as an epic adventure and fantastic experience (and loads of free food on the route). 2014
bluegrass glen coe enduro
Born of the MacAvalanche; a mini Megavalanche styled event with a mass-start on snow, based at the Glen Coe Ski resort, this was picked up after a couple of years by the Bluegrass Enduro tour, and forms the tour's British (Scottish) leg. The event is un-practiced, held on one day and has three timed sections based high up on the mountain. The third section (and reason for it's placing on the bonkers scale ahead of the Passeportes event) is a mass start on snow from the top of the Glen Coe Ski area to the car park using the red downhill route in its second half. Team RWR 'raced' on the 5th May 2015.
Only approached in purity of 'put your brain in a box and leave it at home' ness by the nearby 'Mountain of Hell' event, Megavalanche is the ultimate experience for the truly crazed biker. This will test you to the max, laugh in your face and poke you in the eye laughing. Wild camping at the top of the Alpe d'Huez ski area sees hundreds of grungy campers all washing in the same toilet (despite the town council giving free passes to the local sports centre for showers), and completely takes over this quite lovely ski resort at the top of the infamous 21 hairpins section of the tour de France. A gold pass got us 5 days free ski-lifts as well as entry to the two part event for about E70 - an absolute steal, although getting there (like the Passeportes ) was expensive. There are plenty of lift serviced trails in the area to build up your skills and nerve (and sphincter muscles) over the week before the big event, as well as a network of cross country trails for an easy day. I can recommend building a 160mm - 170mm freeride bike for the event. Mine came in bits from e-bay, got ragged for a week, then went back on again; there was no way I was taking a bike I loved on this trip. If you get lost in practice as the lower section of the qualification route winds its way through the town (!) then you may be lucky as we were to get a round of applause as you appear at the top of the hairpins clad in full-face helmet on a big bouncy bike amongst one of the local 'hairpins hillclimb' road cycling events. The event itself was really well managed, and I hadn't realised is divided into several sections. After qualifying (the maddest thing I have ever done), you then qualified for the full Megavalanche mass start event (first 15 in your 200 starting group), the Mega Amateurs - another mass start for the gifted amongst us (next 15 or so), or (as I did); the Mega challengers which is an open, start any time, event which gives you a time for completion. The winner won in about 45 minutes, my time was almost an hour later. I could describe the qualifier, but I won't; watch one of the videos here on the site, and suffice it to say that the event itself two days later is the only event I've stopped for a banana on mid-section, the only glacier I will ever ride on, the most arm pump I've ever had, the biggest braking bumps I've ever seen, and I must finish by apologising to the family sitting at the side of the trail as I came past spitting bits of haribo I'd nearly choked on, out of the bottom of my full face - and qualifying was crazier, steeper and scarier (and not just the start). Crazy Crazy. Summed up by the thought of 200 people on a Start line for a track 20 feet wide about 25metres before the first hairpin bend all bobbing their heads to bad Europop shortly before trying to ride under over and through each other down the side of a very big mountain. Bonkers. Still Makes me smile thinking about it .... 2011.