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The Big Dog!

The route follows the standard route above up to Cross Foxes Inn at 65km.

After the feed station at this point, the route splits. The Long Route then heads over the Dinas Mawddwy Pass (367m) and then a long descent down to the turn off to Bwlch y Groes (Hellfire Pass). This climb is not that long but pretty steep, averaging 13.7% and with a hairpin at 25% and goes up to 554m in 2.5km - the highest tarmac road in Wales. A genuinely tough climb that featured in the Milk Race in the 80's and makes it into Simon Warren's '100 Greatest Cycling Climbs.

The descent off this climb is stunning and the route rolls down towards Bala Lake before climbing again into the mountains on the other side of the Valley in the Coed y Brenin forest.

The route finishes the same way as the Standard Route

Distance: 162km/101 miles
Climbing: 3181m

Map GPX file KML file

The Big Dog! description

The route kicks off with a flat run out of the picturesque village of Aberdyfi. As you hit the coast road next to the golf course the road rolls a little towards the neighbouring village of Tywyn. Passing down next to the railway line, the route takes you over the first river crossing over the brand new Bailey Bridge at the mouth of the Dysynni. Out onto the back roads through Rhoslefain and onto the magnificent stone-walled coastal road towards Fairbourne. Rolling at best, there are no real climbs and as the road builds above Fairbourne you can see the town of Barmouth across the Mawddach estuary and the railway bridge. This year the bridge is closed so we will be riding down the scenic Mawddach Trail instead, a former railway line which follows the south bank of the estuary, really close to the river. This is the Welsh equivalent of the Strade Bianchi! *

At the end of the Mawddach Trail is the George III Inn at Penmaenpool where the route goes back onto the road and towards the village of Arthog, and then left up into the hills.

This is the first proper climb on the route, short and intense. The scenery is amazing on the way up this climb although the chances are you will be doing your best not to get off the bike and will not have time to look over your shoulder. If you were to you will see the railway bridge you crossed a few miles earlier laid out over the estuary behind you in the breath-taking view that has featured on a good deal of the pre-ride publicity. There are a couple of fierce hairpins of 20 degrees plus up this section of the route and there are sure to be some walkers, so if you manage to stay on the bike the whole way to the top you have done well. For a good club rider it is only 10-15 minutes long but the gradient will put a sting in the legs.

The reward for the climb is a stunning view over the Cregennan Lakes at the top and a feed station if you need it. A few hundred yards more climbing after the stop and the descent is long and fast all the way down to the town of Dolgellau. A good chance to recover some energy and eat if you did not stop at the top.
A short navigation challenge round the one-way system in Dollgellau and then it is off to another climb. This one is longer but steadier and allows the climbers to get into a rhythm and tap away up the constant 9-10 degree climb.

A mile or so of downhill freewheeling takes you to Cross Foxes pub on a junction of four roads. There is a feed station here. Make sure you follow the signs carefully as the route splits and whilst the standard route heads for home, the long route is just getting warmed up.

Important: When you reach Cross Foxes, you are not quite halfway and the long route loop to come is very hilly. If you feel like you are struggling at this point, it may well be best to follow the signs for the Standard Route instead and start heading for home. There are still 30km to go from here on the Standard Route. Just inform one of the staff at the finish line that you completed the Standard Route instead of the Long Route and we will adjust your time accordingly. There will be a cut off point of 12.00pm, so if you do not make this point by then you will be asked to complete the Standard Route anyway.

After the leaving Cross Foxes, the road climbs again, this time over the barren Dinas Mawddwy pass. The good news is that much of the climbing has already been done getting to Cross Foxes and the approach to the pass from this side is relatively straight forward. As you navigate round a couple of steep hairpins at the start of the descent you will be thankful that the route is run this way round. After the steep start, the descent is long and fast and even the ‘flat’ is a false flat in your favour and the legs keep turning at a good rate all the way to the village of Dinas Mawddwy. Ducking off the main road left and through the village, the road rolls gently along for around 5 miles of calm before the storm, a good opportunity to eat and chat before the beasting that is about to come. As you progress down this valley, you will be looking at the steep sided mountains all around and may well wonder how the road makes it out. Just as you are pondering you will see the mighty Bwlch y Groes road slicing straight up the mountain side from left to right. You may well gulp at this stage and quite rightly.

This climb is one of the top ten or fifteen climbs in the UK (depending on which book you read) and is mostly over 20% for its short but intense 2.5km, topping at around 25%. If you are wondering what gears to bring, make sure you pack some big rear rings (and possibly small front ones) as even for an accomplished club rider with a 34 x 28 this climb is punishing and requires you to stand out of the saddle for a good deal of its 20-25 minutes of torment (The Strava record is just under 11 minutes!). There are sure to be some walkers (and possibly some tears!) at this section, but the good news is that it is Wales and not the Alps and the climbs never last that long. Whilst it is intense, it is only 2.5km and tops out at 554m.

The reward for your efforts is a long sweeping descent down the mountain side to the lowlands towards Bala.

Important: When you reach the village of Llanuwchlyn, you have the option to turn for home along the flat straight road towards Dollgellau and follow the Long Route instead. Just inform one of the staff at the finish line that you completed the Long Route instead of the Big Dog and we will adjust your time accordingly. There will be a cut off point of 1.00pm, so if you do not make this point by then you will be asked to complete the Long Route anyway.

From there it is up again, but on a much gentler gradient onto the heathlands beyond known as the Ranges. This is sheep country and a stunning wilderness. The single track, but well paved road twists and turns through the Welsh landscape following rivers and dry stone walls. Leg-sapping and a series of seemingly never-ending small ups and downs, these kilometers are psychologically tough. A descent down through the insanely tall trees of the Coed Brenin, brings the route back towards the Cross Foxes pub feed station point.

The dead straight run from Cross Foxes offers a great view of the majestic Cadair Idris on the right which is the second highest peak in Wales after Snowdon. The road climbs a short way to the top of the Cadair Pass at 286m and smooth fast descent down the pass towards the Talyllyn valley laid out below. This section of road has often been used in TV clips for the area as helicopters film the view coming across the pass.
Once the road hits the flat, it is a gently weaving run along the floor of this steep-sided U-shaped glacial valley, through the villages of Abergynolwyn, Bryncrug and Tywyn on the run back into Aberdyfi.

* NB. The Mawddach Trail is not a tarmac road. It is gravel but well bedded in, so it is actually fairly smooth to ride. However, it may not be something that everyone is comfortable to do and, if not, an alternative suggestion is below, which involves going round the roundabout near Dollgellau and back again. It is slightly further and will take a bit longer than the Mawddach Trail, but it is an option for anyone who would rather not ride this section. NB. This will not be signed. It will be your responsibility to familiarise yourself with this alternative and you will not technically be on our route. The map below shows the route section from Fairbourne to Cregennan Lakes on the suggested alternative.

The Routes

Fun Route

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Fun route

Standard Route

90km/56 miles

Standard route

Long Route

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Long route

The Big Dog!

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The Big Dog

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