Mégavalanche La Réunion
More than a touch of exotic at the end of the season
At the end of the season Onza Tires team rider René Wildhaber treated himself to a whole load of exotic: After staying in the Himalaya to shoot for a movie, Wildhaber travelled to Réunion where he finished third at the Mégavalanche race.
Before returning to his home town to work at Flumserberg's ski school, Onza Tires team rider René Wildhaber travelled to some far-away locations this fall. First he spent an entire month in Nepal. With the spectacular Himalaya range as a backdrop, Wildhaber participated in the shooting of Anthill's new bike movie «Strength in Numbers». Part of that meant crossing a mountain pass that peaked at an elevation of 5400 metres above sea level (or more than 17'700 feet).
When the shooting for the movie was done, Wildhaber continued his journey to Le Réunion in the pacific ocean to participate in his last race of the season, the classic Mégavalanche finishing at St.Paul. Shortly after arriving, it became clear that this year things were not as usual. Just one month before the race, the island had been haunted by large bush fires. «This forced the organizers to skip the first part of the course, about an eigth of the overall descent. On top of that, after one month of shooting I was struggling to get back to my racing rhythm», Wildhaber reflects on his first practice runs after arriving on the island.
Another new element was that the qualification was ridden in an enduro format: Four riders at a time were sent into a total of three special stages leading down the hill. The result of this qualification was decisive for the position at the start – and that's where the problems started for René Wildhaber: «In the first special stage of the qualifying, I crashed and landed on my head. But fortunately I found time to collect myself after this incident and find back my speed.» A plenty of s rain had been pouring down just a few days before the race, the course was not dusty as in other years but rather loamy and grippy.
As for the qualification, René Wildhaber took no chances for the race. «In order not to risk any flats, I mounted Onza Tires' Ibex DH on a tubeless rim without an inner tube, the softer 45a compound up front and the 55a compound in the back. This brought me down to the finish without any problems, although there's a lot of thorns in the lower part of the course.» Due to his crash in qualifying, René Wildhaber did not get a place in the front row at the start, but as some of his competitors proved to be overly motivated, they got caught in a barrier tape right after the start.
Due to his routine Wildhaber avoided to get caught in that mess and made up a lot of positions only to be blocked by some not-so-fast riders: «Heading into the first longer stretch of singletrail, I was caught in traffic at about 7th position, while Remy and Julien Absalon managed to ride away from the rest and take the lead.» The two French brothers cooperated nicely, managing their margin against an incessantly attacking René Wildhaber. Crossing the finish line 14 seconds after the two Absalons, Wildhaber moved up to third position.
René Wildhaber says he is satisfied with this result: «Going at full space in the race was a lot of fun. On Réunion's beach, I found time to draw a balance after this race. In total, this was my 20th start at a Mégavalanche race. I finished within the top3 17 times, getting three wins and only suffering a flat in three of the twenty races.» No wonder René Wildhaber is respectfully being dubbed «Mega Man» in France – and not only there.
Press release of onza tires