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Murdoch rides in France

Local biker completes Trans-Provence, Megavalanche

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Some riders will head overseas to do a big event here or there, but Conrad Murdoch decided to jam-pack his trip to Europe.

The Whistler local, 19, completed both the Mavic Trans-Provence and the Megavalanche while on the month-long trip, even taking a detour to Andorra to see local downhill star Finn Iles win his UCI World Cup race.

Reached via email, Murdoch said the Trans-Provence in late June was the "greatest thing" he's ever done, as it pushed him to grow as a rider.

"The race tested every aspect of your ability to ride a bike physically and mental," wrote Murdoch, who placed 30th overall and 13th among amateurs at the race. "Nearly every single person attending were all there to have some fun and put their skills to the ultimate test."

Murdoch explained that he entered the Trans-Provence with the goal of finishing the six-day race, making his way 269 kilometres from the start at Embrun to the Mediterranean Sea at Menton (just northeast of Nice). The race was the most challenging week of his life, he noted, but in spite of the challenges he faced and the slog as the week went on, turned out to be a rewarding one.

"(It's) hard to think of a favourite because I'm pretty sure at the end of each day I said, 'That was the best day ever,' but if I had to pick one it would have to be Day 4. It's hard to say why but I think it stands out because I enjoyed the challenge of the day and the change in environment from the red earth into the alpine grassy meadows," Murdoch wrote.

"Day 5 was probably a little less fun because it was the longest day of the week and I was pretty beat from the previous four days. I had a silly crash that resulted in a sprained thumb early on in the day, which made it a bit hard to hold onto the handlebars and shift gears.

"I still made it to the end of the day with a smile on my face because I could still manage to hold a can of beer in my sore hand."

Other locals competing in the Trans-Provence included Seb Kemp (12th) and Todd Hellinga (28th).

After finishing, Murdoch hung around in Europe and then raced in the Megavalanche at Alpe d'Huez in July. Murdoch finished in the top half of the field, taking 93rd out of 339 finishers — all of whom started at the same time on a snowy, icy mountaintop. Spencer Wight, a fellow Whistlerite and the only other Canadian competing, was 49th. Whistler resident Yoann Barelli, representing France, placed 18th.

"The Megavalanche is a whole new level of racing. The mass start format is absolutely insane, scary and somehow super fun," Murdoch noted. "The mega was nothing like anything I had ever done before and you can't really compare it with any other race. Qualifiers have about 150 riders in each heat and only the top 35 make it into the finals. With 500 people in finals you want to make sure you qualify in a good spot to be further ahead in the pack for the main event. 

"The start is a bit of a gamble and after that you've basically just got to try and get ahead and stay ahead of other riders. The best thing to do is to just ride super aggressive with your elbows out, other than that it's just another race once you're in the single track."

While his initial itinerary included competing at the Enduro World Series race in Millau, Murdoch decided to switch it out for the Megavalanche thanks to Barelli.

"(He) asked me when I was going to be in France and told me that I was doing the Megavalanche with him and Spencer Wight. He pulled some strings and got me an entry in the event and I just thought I might as well try it as I won't have many opportunities to do something like it again," Murdoch recalled.

Murdoch will race the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro here in Whistler before heading to Sun Peaks for the final BC Enduro race of the year.

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