The Mountain of Hell MTB race is now in its 17th year and the 2016 edition saw 700 mountain bikers take part from no less than 18 different countries. For the first time this year there was a children's race with 23 competitors taking part, and 16 women also joined the ranks - I was one of them.
The conditions for qualifiers this year were pretty much perfect for the first 5 sets of riders, with the heavens opening on the last few groups to come down the mountain. You can see the 11km route on my Strava profile - it started at over 2500m after a 15 minute push up from the mid station of the Jandri lift and took us all the way down into Mont de Lans village.
The 11km route was a lot of fun, starting on loose rock to the sound of "Men in Black" - this year's theme for the race, with the next few groups of riders dancing and cheering us on as we set off. Unlike some other races everyone qualifies for the main race - the time you set determines the place you will start on the main race day on top of the glacier. Even if you don't finish due to a mechanical problem or a crash you still end up on the start grid, just all the way at the back.
Top 3 results for the qualifiers were as follows:
1 – Jérôme CLEMENTZ – FR – 16.47
2 – Kilian BRON – FR – 16.48
3 – Marco OSBORNE – USA – 16.49
1 – Isabeau COURDURIER – ITA – 19.34
2 – Morgane SUCH – FR – 20.03
3 – Pauline DIEFFENTHALER – FR– 20.47
Once the results for the qualifiers had been posted in the main square we all knew where we were going to start the next morning for race day and it was going to be an early start... The race was due to start at 9am, which meant the first people up on the lift were scheduled to leave at 05:20 and the last ones at 06:20, a bit of a shock to the system if you're not used to it.
Getting 700+ mountain bikers and their bikes up onto the top of the glacier was a feat in itself, with everyone getting first onto the Jandri to the top, then riding down the snow to get onto the funicular. There was quite a queue but once inside, we stood like a guard of honour, bikes up on their back wheels, waiting to get on as the funicular arrived.
At the very top of the glacier 3400m it was cold, with wind chill only making it colder. Once the bikes were laid down in position on the start grid, we had over an hour and a half to wait for the start and huddled together in the main lift building to keep warm. Those people who had come prepared with large jackets and ski gloves could have them taken down the mountain by the organisers - something I'd definitely do if I take part in this race again.
As we waited for the helicopter to arrive, which signalled the start, the sun was coming up over the mountains around us and the glacier looked pretty spectacular. Skiers and snowboarders came past taking photos of us all lined up ready to go and then the music started again. The whistle blew and everyone picked up their bikes and set off.
Being towards the back I could see almost the whole field charging off down the mountain, a really spectacular sight.. this video from UR Team shows everyone piling down into the first corner. There was a good 5 km of snow to contend with since there had been around 40cm fresh snow in early June, challenging for anyone riding. The fastest at the front clocked up an incredible 110kmph and this was where the race would be won or lost. Getting over the freshly groomed snow was easier the less people had gone before you, and as you can see from winning rider Jerome Clementz's POV video it was all about staying upright and in control in this section - the rest was relatively easy.
Sadly for me the race finished on the snow with a crash, a sore shoulder and pins & needles in my hand, meaning I had to bail out at the Jandri mid station. Everyone else who did finish, raced from 3400m down to 900m - a 25km route finishing on the steps and switchbacks of the walking trail down into Venosc.
The atmosphere for the whole event was incredible, town was buzzing, there were MTB film nights and a RedBull show by a motorbiker rider and a dirt jumper to top it off.
The Mountain of Hell is a tough race and certainly lives up to its name.. The event is limited to 700 competitors, and registrations fill up really quickly each year. If you're interested in taking part in next year's event keep an eye on our events calendar for the announcement for registrations which will be around the end of February 2017.
The final results:
1 – Jérôme CLEMENTZ / FR – 26.49 – 700€
2 – Youn DENIAUD / FR – 28.00 – 500€
3 – Stefan PETER / SUISSE – 28.31 – 350€
4 - Yoan PESENTI / FR – 29.04 – 150€
5 – Olivier BRUWIERE / FR – 29.20 – 100€
1 – Youn DENIAUD / FR – 28.00 – 300€
2 - Stephan PETER / SUISSE – 28.31 – 200€
3 – Yoan PESENTI / FR – 29.04 – 100€
1 – Jérôme CLEMENTZ / FR – 26.49 – 300€
2 – Fabien COUSINIE / FR – 29.32 – 200€
3 – Cédric CARREZ / FR – 30.21 – 100€
1 – Martin FEYL / ALL – 35.05 – 300€
2 – Johan WIERTZ / BEL – 35.06 – 200€
3 – Yann PERRON / FR – 37.05 6 100€
1 – Guy CAVALERIE / FR – 40.36
2 – Jean Michel SERRE / FR – 43.40
3 – Thierry VIARDOT / FR – 43.54
1 – Chrisyopher KEELING / GB – 33.28 – 300€
2 – Maxime BANTI / FR – 35.30 – 200€
3 – Pau LLOPART / ES – 36.32 – 100€
1 - Morgane SUCH / FR – 34.18 - 300€
2 – Emilie SERRE / FR – 38.55 – 200€
3 – Pauline DIEFFENTHALER / FR – 39.21 – 100€