The inaugural Kona Mash-Up took place at Afan Argoed Forest Park this weekend, and managed to coincide with a rare burst of decent weather. The Mash-Up is a new race format that works roughly along the lines of a car rally, or looked at another way, a miniature one-day TransWales.
Allow me to elaborate (and after explanations like that, I feel that I ought). The Mash-Up involved riding a waymarked loop from the rather fine centre at Glyncorrwg. Most of the way there’s no hurry, but on half a dozen occasions you encounter a sign saying “Special Stage Start” with a box of electronic tricks next to a rubber mat on the trail. Ride over that, the chip ziptied to your bike causes the BOET to go “beep” and then it’s pedals to the metal for the next few minutes until you reach the next mat and another beep that signals the end of the section. At the end of the day each rider’s times were added together with the aggregate times determining the winners.
That’s the nub of it, but there were a couple of other details to make things interesting. First, there were two categories. The Enduro riders tackled a lap of Whites Level (except for the Black Run loop) plus a lap of the July trail that takes in the latter stages of Skyline, with the timed sections including the top part of the opening climb. Technical riders just had a lap of Whites, but including the Black Run loop, and didn’t get timed on the climb. Several sections, though, were shared by both. The other tweak was that you could tackle the sections as many times as you liked – the timing ran from 9am to 5pm, and as long as you’d got at least one time on every section by the end of the day, you’d finished.
Cunningly, the organisers had parked a feed zone at the top of the opening climb. From there, the Black Run loop for the Technical riders descended in one direction, with the shared timed section of Windy Point going off in another and the split to the July trail in a third. The clever part of this was that from the bottom of the Black or Windy Point you could trundle back to the feed zone on fireroads, top up with tea and cake and have another go. Lots of people were doing multiple runs on those two sections.
Repeating the other sections was a bit less trivial, and we can’t help wondering if anyone got carried away at the feed zone sections and didn’t leave themselves enough time to finish the loop. But it made for a splendid atmosphere, and lots of different kinds of bikes and riders mixed in together (although the chap on the carbon fibre 29er hardtail with 1.8in tyres was definitely something of a statistical outlier).
With good weather, the trails were mostly in good shape, and the familiar-to-most singletrack sections took on a whole new complexion when you knew the clock was ticking – trees get closer, corners get tighter, rocks get rockier and there’s the ever-present worry about your legs exploding or a lung making a bid for freedom. Top stuff.
Alas, there were a few timing niggles, with quite a few riders experiencing difficulties getting their chips to register over the timing mats – annoying when you’ve just given it full beans for the last three minutes. I just had the one timing failure, which was irritating enough. It didn’t detract from the overall fun of the day, but it’s something that’ll definitely need looking at for next time.
It was a cracking day, though, and with evening festivities at the splendid Drop-Off cafe, well worth making a weekend of. Roll on 2009…Results are now available at www.konaworld.uk.com/mash-up.