Photos: Office du Tourisme, Les Deux Alpes + Alpe d’Huez
Mega Avalanche vs Mountain of Hell
Enduro mountain bike racing has gained immense popularity in recent years, attracting riders and adrenaline junkies from around the world. Two iconic events stand out in the realm of enduro racing, promising epic descents, challenging climbs, and breathtaking views: the Mega Avalanche and Mountain of Hell. Two remarkable races just a valley apart, one starts from the glacier in Alpe D’huez the other at the top of Les Deux Alpes, both presenting excitement to participants and spectators alike.
The Mega Avalanche
Often referred to as “Mega,” is a legendary downhill enduro race that takes place in the heart of the French Alps. This race is renowned for its breathtaking descents that stretch from high-altitude glaciers down to dense Alpine forests. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Each year, thousands of rider from all over the world gather in Alpe d’Huez, France, to be part of an unique adventure. The Megavalanche MTB race ! Its Mass Start at 3330 meters high on the “Pic Blanc” glacier and its finish line in Allemond, 2600 meters further down, makes this ENDURO MASS-START race the longest and craziest downhill race in the world !
The Mega Avalanche was born in 1995 and has since become one of the most challenging and prestigious races in the world of mountain biking. Starting at the glacier on the Pic Blanc in the Alpe d’Huez region, riders navigate a variety of terrains, from ice and snow to rocky paths and lush forests. The race is not just about speed; it demands endurance, technical skills, and the ability to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.
The Mega Avalanche course covers a staggering 20 miles (32 kilometres) with a vertical drop of approximately 9,000 feet (2,745 meters). Riders begin on a glacier at an altitude of over 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) and face treacherous ice fields before descending into rocky terrain, alpine meadows, and finally dense forests. The race typically takes place in July, when the weather can be unpredictable, adding an additional layer of challenge.
What sets the Mega Avalanche apart is the mass start. Hundreds of riders line up shoulder-to-shoulder at the glacier’s edge, creating a chaotic spectacle as they jockey for position. The race features some of the fastest downhill sections in the world, reaching speeds of up to 70 mph (112 kph). Riders must maintain focus, making split-second decisions to avoid obstacles and maintain control. It’s a race where strategy, skill, and sheer guts play pivotal roles.
Mountain of Hell
Another iconic enduro race that draws mountain biking enthusiasts from around the globe is the Mountain of Hell, held in the stunning setting of Les Deux Alpes, also in the French Alps.
History: The Mountain of Hell has a shorter history than the Mega Avalanche, with its first edition taking place in 1999. However, it has quickly become one of the most anticipated events on the enduro calendar. Like the Mega, it combines high-speed descents with challenging technical sections, making it a true test of a rider’s all-around skills.
The Course: The Mountain of Hell course begins at the glacier on the Mont-de-Lans side of Les Deux Alpes. Riders tackle the icy, high-altitude terrain before transitioning to rocky sections and descending through a maze of alpine meadows and forests. The race covers around 17 miles (28 kilometers) and boasts a vertical drop of approximately 7,500 feet (2,286 meters).
The Thrill: Much like the Mega Avalanche, the Mountain of Hell features a mass start, creating an electrifying atmosphere as riders launch themselves onto the glacier. The race is as mentally demanding as it is physically punishing, with riders constantly adjusting to the shifting terrain. It’s a game of calculated risks, where bravery can pay off, but overconfidence can lead to disaster.