Loud trumpet music ripped out over the open mountainside, the upbeat melody mixed with excited chatter whispered into the void. Hundreds of riders stared into the abyss, adrenaline spiking, nerves peaking. Then silence. “Five, Four, Three, Two, One!”
The scene was surreal. The soft Scottish hues of the summit of Meall a’Bhuiridh mountain towering high above Glencoe Mountain Resort, punctuated with a sea of colourful riding gear and mass of high-end enduro bikes. Hundreds of riders huddled for warmth at the top of a snowfield, nervously looking down the steep decline littered with rocks and holes. A faint track was visible below, cutting down the mountainside, all the way to the valley floor – to the finish. Bizarley, upbeat music blasted from the saxophone, drums and trumpet of the three-piece band who had hiked up to start the carnival, breaking up the excited tension as riders lined up on the grid, jostling for a good position, looking for a line.
Imagine; white knuckling your bike, full throttle, hanging off the bars as you careen flat-out over the open mountain flank.
Adrenaline surges; thundering over grass and heather, suddenly hitting a deep snowfield, bike kicking like an angry mule while you wrestle it back under control. The front wheel hangs momentarily in a deep patch then bursts free, “phew, that was clos…..” out the front door you go…
Madness; imagine doing all the above surrounded by 300 of your closest friends, all out of control and wanting to get a better time than you! This is the No-Fuss Macavalanche 2018.
The Macavalanche is a classic on the racing calendar, as crazy as it is iconic. Like the Kamikaze DH races that defined modern mountain biking, the Macavalanche is old school, the rules are simple – who can get down the mountain the fastest? A vague course cuts down the flanks of the open mountain, marked out by flags, but lines are everywhere, some creative, some insane. Direct lines can save a few seconds or cost a lot more. This is mountain bike racing at its purest, racing down a mountain – against the clock, yes – but also against the person buckarooing around in front of you and the hordes trying to chase you down from behind.
This year, No-Fuss and the team had put on a challenging course, two tough stages running from the top of the perfectly named Cliff Hanger chairlift to the valley floor, followed by a mass-start race from near the summit of Meall a’Bhuiridh, before a lung-busting haul up Creag Dhubh and plummet down the infamous Red Run to the finish line. Some were ‘in it to win it’, most were there to survive. After a bumper winter for the resort, it was clear that snow was going to factor highly on the menu for the day. Many different snow techniques were applied, some opting for the tried and tested ‘cautious feet out and paddle down’, others simply elected for the ‘hit it full gas and eject, then repeat’. The spring snow was soft enough to make any shenanigans hilarious rather than painful. The weather was predictably Scottish, all seasons in one day, cold and wet in the morning but brightening and improving through the day – the stage was set for an epic battle.
While there were many internal battles being raced, the battle for the lead was fierce. In the women’s category, Roz Newman tomahawked her way to third, while Nic Fell took a solid second, but neither could challenge Queen of the Mountain Nicci Moore who took the win by a solid 2 minutes. The men’s race was no less exciting, Chris Hutchens spannered himself on the second stage so decided to quit while still intact and focus on the EWS this week. Callum McCubbing fired up the afterburners to win the mass start race but was too far back in time from the first two stages to take the overall. Lewis Cochran smashed his way to second, but after winning the first two stages by huge margins, it was Fergus Lamb who would be crowned king of the mountain, leading the field by almost 50 seconds in the overall.
For those of you who have never raced the Macavalanche, it is certainly one to put onto the calendar, a unique experience that could happen nowhere else in the UK. As bonkers as it is awesome, and highlighting one of Scotland’s most beautiful locations, the Macavalanche is one for any riders bucket list. We hope to see you there next year.
Words & Photos: Trev Worsey