“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein.
How many of us have ever thought of picking up an extreme and exciting sport at the age of 50 and above or even mid 30’s? By that time, we would be hustling through life, or just starting to reach the early ages of being mentally, physically and financially safe.
In this modern day and age, the work-life – exercise equilibrium has been put to the test but for riders of team Heroes of Enduro, a group consisting of individuals ranging from age 35 to 53 and even above, seem to have it all put together.
Heroes of Enduro started in 2013, as a team of close high school friends who decided that they would pick up a sport together. For them, that sport was Enduro Mountain Biking. Being of age and wealth, they needed to pick up a sport that would allow them the freedom to pace themselves from one stage to another. Luckily enough, that’s what endures mountain biking brought them. They were given the freedom to ride and take their time rather than to push through all the way. The sport to them became a coping mechanism as well as to keep them physically and mentally fit.
For those who are unsure of what Enduro Mountain Biking is, it is a subcategory of mountain biking where downhill and uphill trails are part and parcel of the experience, usually no uplifts to the top of the hills. You have to climb to earn the fun downhill sections. It differs than cross-country where enduro gives emphasis on the flowy downslopes and trails.
Enduro mountain bike races, however, are timed racing runs in stages that are primarily downhill, with neutral “transfer” untimed stages in between. The transfer stages usually must be completed within a time-limit, but are not part of the accumulated time.
Many may think that picking up a bike and riding is plain easy but not in this sport. You would go downhill trails super-fast and then have to climb back up the hills, with your bike, and go back down that hill. Skills, endurance, mental and physical strengths equally play such an important role in the sport that not many tend to stick to it but the ones that do, are incredible!
The Heroes developed and harnessed their skills by competing around the world in big racing events such as Megavalanche, Iran Enduro, Indonesian Enduro Series, Thai Asian International Enduro Series, and more, which have been their motivations to keep going.
THE MEGAVALANCHE ALPE D’HUEZ 2017
In the year 2017, one of these riders, Meor Wazir bin Zul’Aidin, competed at Megavalanche, held at Alpes d’Huez, France. To quote Meor, “The MEGAVALANCHE is undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous and not-to-be-missed mass-start Enduro/Downhill races. Departing from Le Pic Blanc (3300 m) above Alpe d’Huez and finishing at Allemont (720 m), you’ll ride a whopping 2500m of vertical drop from snow and ice down to the dusty single track.”
Thousands of riders’ traveled across the globe to compete in this week-long event marathon. It was definitely something Meor wanted to tick off his bucket list. It was like nothing he could ever imagine but first, registrations where riders needed to get a number board. Then, the fun began.
When I went there, I had all my gear right off the bat. I brought my bike from Malaysia and all of my necessary biking gear for the race. All that was left, was to do the actual racing.
I started mountain biking in 2013 and then started Enduro racing all throughout 2016 and 2017 where I took part in races in Thailand and Indonesia. The Megavalanche though was nothing like those. Having done enduro, you, sort of understand and know what to expect, this time, I didn’t. The terrain was new, the track was new, the experience was definitely new.
So you start from the top of the mountain where just complete snow was. It was unquestionably a tough track as you couldn’t exactly train for something like that anywhere else. The trail went for 30 km long, which was 720m down the valley and ends in the meadows of Allemond. It was a grueling race. It was very hard.
There were a few categories, one for female riders, one for kids, one for all the men got to compete and one for invites. Then, you were put into a group of 200 riders, at the starting gate and it didn’t matter if you were a beginner guy or a pro. You might even end up racing against Sam Hill. As long as you tried to get into the top 35. You could possibly get put into the main event on a Sunday, but if you didn’t make it to the top 35, you still got to race but on a Saturday, which was the day I raced. At the end of the day, every single racer got to race and experience the marathon.
Most people got out 2 to 3 days before the Mega to test out the trail. You didn’t want to be taking the wrong turn as it did start really high up. Things could go tremendously wrong. Let alone riding in snow. Who gets to ride in snow every day? Definitely not Malaysians. And it was quite fast and very slippery so you needed to practice all of this before the race.
The qualifying track was a totally different track to the Megavalanche main track. It started in a different part of the mountain and it descended down 9 km which was 1491m downhill. It all depended on how fast you rode the track; its grueling, fast, technical, not much of a climb and it ended up in the Alp D’Huez village where you got through, got your time and your position. You did not have to have the fastest time to win this event but it all depended on how you rode it. At the end of the day, it’s a downhill marathon and if you came out with a technical issue, it was so hard to get back on track.
There were ski lifts that you could bring your bikes on and you would ride it all the way up to the peak of the mountain where the race began. All in all, the Mega was a brutal and exciting challenge as you went from a snowy terrain at an elevation of 3000m to a rocky terrain at an elevation of 2000m, then through a lush green meadow across a forest and end at the foot of the Alps.
It was something not many people can say they have downed especially mountain bikers at the age of 51. Nothing like this exists other than in the French Alps. It was so well coordinated and managed that it was one of those bucket list events you can’t really imagine happening.
“At my age, you think you have seen the world and experienced more than most but doing this, was something more than you could ever imagine.”