Is the mash up format the best way to get started at enduro racing? The team here at off.road.cc have raced a fair few enduro’s between them but never a ‘mash up’. So whilst other countries weren't so lucky with the weather (Albstadt we’re looking at you) Rachael went along to race the Welsh Gravity Enduro in the sun at Afan Bike Park, Wales looking to find out just what the mash up is all about, if it is any good and the reasons why!
In case you thought enduro racing was just enduro racing, think again. Although it might all look the same whichever way up you hold it, there are some significant differences in the way things are run. A bit like a bottle of Daddies Sauce – looks pretty much the same upside down as right side up but very different things happen when orinetation is changed.
The format you’ll most likely think about when you imagine an enduro race is the one where you practice the race stages the day before or on the morning of the race and then each rider has an allotted start time for each stage on race day. Miss that start time and time penalties begin being awarded. Variations of this format have emerged where organisers really aren’t that bothered if you get to a stage on time, so no penalties, but the times are still in place to help keep the day moving and get competitors to the right locations. Then you have the races where you get sent out in packs of 10 or so to ride the course in a set order either stage 1,2,3 or 2,3,1 or 3,2,1 depending on the group you get sent in, with each stage ridden just once.
Wales sure is beautiful and a great place to ride bikes!
The mash up format is nothing like any of the above apart from you will be on your bike and you will race downhill. At a mash up the race stages will be laid out as per normal, at sign on you will be given a timing chip and then it's down to you to devise your day. You can ride any stage, in any order and as many times as you like – the best time you put down counts, the others are discarded. Sounds pretty good right, yes it does, and if you factor in a days practice the day before then you are in for a hell of a lot of bike time for your £45.50. We didn't practice the day before but managed two runs of each stage easily in the time given and would recommend repeating each stage directly if your memory is anything like ours, rather than lapping out the whole course.
The mash up really appealed to us here at off.road.cc, aside from plenty of bike time, there are lots of perks to this format, here’s why we reckon it’s so good:
You get to ride with your mates
And we mean actually ride with your mates. We know enduro is supposed to embody the spirit of a mountain bike ride but with start times in place it’s hard to ride together, if one person starts riding more slowly than others then he or she will have to be dropped off the back of the pack to ensure others get the stage on time. Race a mash up race though and you can ride, rest, eat, fix punctures and even follow each other down the stages. The latter of which we think might actually be an unfair advantage, but hey…
Mates can follow you in with a 10 second gap
Repeating stages without stopping is actually good
There are few rules at a mash up enduro, but of the few, there is one important one – don’t stop during a stage on race day. So whilst you can repeat stages as many times as you like, you can’t stop and practice sections on the way down. This might sound tough but it’s actually pretty good for momentum, dropping into the stage knowing that you can’t stop whatever happens makes you deal with all the less than ideal situations in a way that manages and retains speed at all costs. You’ll find more flow in your riding and find that you possess some lightning quick reactions, at least we did.
Fresh stages and blue skies
Ride when you want
With no official start times as such it means you really can ride when you want. The stages are open from 10:30 – 15:30 and we found it easy to get two laps of the whole course in with plenty of faff / eating time in between. We heard a few people getting a quick lap in, laying down some reasonable times and then going home to spend the rest of the day in the sun with the family – spot on.
No start times and little queuing
Lots of bike time
In times where riders are shunning downhill due to the lack of riding time, the mash up is the complete antithesis of this, in fact, we finished riding well before the 15:30 cut off time. There was plenty of time for another trip round the course but we all know we should never just do ‘one more run’, should we?! Taking into account the fact that you can also practice all of the stages the day prior to the race should you wish, this grand total of time on bike is huge, making the £45.50 entry fee feel pretty decent value.
You can stop for lunch
Not only can you stop for a slap-up picnic mid-race, you can also drop by the pits (course layout dependant) for supplies or mechanical assistance. Stories of riders swapping bikes and wheel sizes make us prick our ears up, some of the pro races were timing themselves on two different bikes with some interesting 27.5 vs 29 results. Back to lunch…. dropping by the pits means you can go ‘full enduro’ and leave the pack at home, we stopped by to fill out water bottles up every so often meaning we got all the benefits of enduro style without foregoing hydration.
Rachael cahsing down the clock on stage 2
Finally, the Welsh Gravity Enduro mash up format left us feeling the most relaxed about any race we’ve entered so far. No start times means you can ask the rider behind you to leave a large gap (two minutes if you want) so you can race down the trail without the fear of a faster rider breathing down your neck. We didn’t get caught up on any stage and neither did we catch another rider, got to be a first unless the race is very well seeded. A lack of pressure is conducive to better riding, as Danny Hart proves, we all know what happens when you have fun on a mountain bike! That’s not to say mash up riders are pulling Champery runs out of the bag left, right and centre, but safe in the knowledge that if you mess up you can go again, it lifts the tension somewhat.
Stage 2 didn't go so well for everyone
There are plenty more reasons why racing the Welsh Gravity Enduro was blast at the weekend, not least the beautiful sunshine that made an appearance but also the new, freshly and superbly dug end to stage two, the diverse trails used, the slick running and the friendly faces. If you are thinking of taking part in your first enduro race then this is certainly a good format to start with, it's relatively stress free giving you lots of time to go at your own pace without the constraints of a clock on the uphill and other riders on the downhills. That said, it's great for seasoned pro's too, that temptation to ride a little to close to the edge will test even experienced riders, it's never easier, you just go faster, right?
Thanks for having us guys, see you again!
Fancy having a go? Head over to www.welshgravityenduro.com to enter the next one.
Photos - Doc Ward
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