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Tour of Britain - Day 4 - North Wales

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Llangollen Route. Photo by Dave Barter.


Llangollen & Denbigh

A gravitational ticklist for the hardened wheeled warrior

Grade: Serious
Distance: 110.4km/68.6miles
Ascent: 2,587m/8,487ft

Stage 4 of the ToB heads out of Stoke on Trent and arrows west for the hills of North Wales, passing Wrexham, Mold, Denbigh before heading into Snowdonia, up and over Pen y Pass and down to Llanberis to finish. There's a cracker of a Snowdonia ride in Great British Bike Rides, but we've picked Dave's Llangollen ride and the hills of Llangollen and Denbigh. Over to Dave:

Llangollen Overview mapI’ve been inspired by many cycling books over the years (which is one reason why I sat down to write this one), but there is a single book that stands out from the crowd for its impact upon my cycling.

That book is 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs by Simon Warren. Within its pages Simon proposes a tick list of classic British climbs that all cyclists should aspire to.

I spent eighteen months ticking off as many of his hills as I could and a fair few of them feature in these pages. In my ticking, I noticed that Simon had tabled five within a short reach of Llangollen and these five soon became the inspiration for this route.

Paying homage to both Simon’s book and to the Llangollen area, the route rides up four and down one of his classic climbs. The most notable of these is the Horseshoe Pass. Revered by cyclists and motorcyclists alike, it features on many tick lists of roads to ride. The English name is derived from the profound horseshoe shape the road makes as it claws its way up the enclosed valley side. The Welsh, meanwhile, know it by the far more catchy ‘Bwlch yr Oernant’ or ‘pass of the cold stream’. It is certainly the longest and arguably the most scenic of the climbs on the ride, but by no means the hardest. That particular bragging right goes to the climb up Bwlch Penbarras, a fearsome stretch of relentlessly steep tarmac that has clearly been designed to force cyclists to get off and walk.

Moel Arthur and the Shelf both take honours for dishing out a cycling challenge, but the Cerrig out of Denbigh hands out a much larger tax bill to the legs. Climbing for over six miles up to and around Llyn Brenig, this is a fantastic test for any aspiring King of the Mountains who has their eyes set on a big mountain objective. Measure your physicality and resolve on this Welsh slope, with its long steep sections, before you commit your money to bigger trials abroad!

Make no mistake: this is definitely a ride for the climbers, with well over 8,000 feet of ascent in 68 miles. But it’s also a ride for those who enjoy their views, their wild locations and who realise that there is more to Wales than Snowdonia or some of the more popular coastal areas. You’ll ride through forest, over moorland and across patchworks of tended farmland, ending the ride an exhausted mess both physically and scenically.

The final miles provide a lovely little piece of icing on the cake as you follow a tree lined valley system back down into Llangollen. You haven’t ridden Wales until you’ve completed this route.

Putting Simon’s ticklist aside, Llangollen is a fantastic place for any cyclist who enjoys a good hill. It’s relatively accessible from anywhere, yet offers a huge variety of challenging riding within a fairly small area.

The town itself is neatly sandwiched between the Berwyn and Clwydian mountain ranges, with Snowdonia creeping up from the rear – opening up a world of riding possibilities.

Llangollen Stats page

For full route information, and details of all 40 of Dave's routes, check out Great British Bike Ridesand save 20% at checkout with offer code TOUR2013

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