To say 'Look before you leap' is an old adage, but perhaps 'Look before you decide to hurl yourself down a glacier on your mountain bike' might be appropriate for the modern age.
Pembertonian rider Emily Slaco signed up for the Megavalanche in Alpe D'Huez, France sight unseen, but received some coaching from past participant and Whistler resident Yoann Barelli to get set for the race, which begins on the Pic Blanc glacier.
It worked, as Slaco placed fourth in the July 9 competition.
Reached via Facebook, Slaco recalled the circumstances that led her to sign up.
"When I found out I was going to France, I was talking to some friends and they said, 'Hey, sign up for this race, it's fun' so I signed up...then I looked into the race and watched a video and realized how crazy it was," she wrote. "I didn't really know what I was getting myself into but I had a friend (from Whistler) who had done it before and he was really awesome in helping coach us through the couple practice days leading up to the race.
"After my first practice down the glacier, I honestly just wanted to make it down alive with my bike in one piece. Being up there at the top of the glacier with hundreds of people and loud techno music blaring is pretty intimidating."
Slaco was training in soft conditions that hardened up for race day, a welcome development that helped many of the riders.
"Conditions were actually great, the snow set up pretty well. It was relatively hard but not too icy so if you had a good start and stayed out of other people's ruts, didn't slip out or didn't have someone run into you, it wasn't too bad," she explained. "It was a bit different on race day starting on the bike and letting it go straight down... There's a hard right corner after the first steep pitch that was pretty scary and I crashed just before it... I had a couple more little crashes in some soft spots before getting off the glacier."
The crashes weren't without casualties, as one of them cost Slaco her shifter, which she called the biggest challenge of the day aside from the "scariness" of the venue.
Still, she maintained it was important to keep going and cross the line.
"I don't think there was a real turning point other than just not giving up even when you've had some crashes and bad luck, just keep going and give it your best."
Fellow Sea to Sky rider Spencer Wight of Whistler placed 30th in the men's event.
Slaco's original impetus for her jet-setting was to compete in the Enduro World Series race in Italy on July 16 and 17.
"I'm not sure how much the race will have helped for La Thuile but any time on the bike riding new areas and getting out of your comfort zone is good and is definitely one of my favourite things," she said.
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