Starting at the peak of a glacier-topped mountain, Mountain of Hell desends through the French Alps taking in varying terrain en route.
The main image (above) shows the chaotic start of the race as 530 mountain bikers hurtle down the ice-covered surface.
'The klaxon sounds and we scramble to mount our bikes,' says Spender. 'Riding in a straight line on an icy piste is one thing, but trying to turn or brake is quite another. The course is already littered with riders frantically trying to disentangle themselves from their bikes and each other. I’m already clocking 75km/h and the pros at the front are pushing 100. It’s utter madness.'
As the riders get further down the mountain, ice makes way for rocks as shown in the second picture (right).
'After a few kilometres, with my suspension pumping double-time, I hurtle over a huge stone plateau towards the edge, lean back, pull on the bars and manage to clear a few metres of jagged rocks beneath me,' says Spender. 'Not pretty, but I’m just happy to still be vertical.'
With the temperature rising and altitude falling, rocks make way for dirt tracks surrounded by grass (see second and third images on the right). However, despite this more forgiving looking landscape, there's still the potential for disaster.
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