~ RALLY SECTORS & STAGES ~
The Gravel Rally pits you against multiple sectors, 6 of which are timed, along a course that has to be tackled within a single day.
Each sector will require a different racing ability, from leg-shredding road climbing to technical forestry riding, gravel sprints and fast rolling descents, The Gravel Rally will reward the all-rounder who pushes their boundaries the furthest.
Transition Stage 1 – in the beginning
SECTOR 1 – the hill climb
The first stage of the Gravel Rally is a neutralised rollout from the gates to Adventure Parc Snowdonia and along a 1 mile stretch of flat tarmac. Past houses with people still snuggled up in bed, cows grazing in fields and the dawn song of robins and thrushes. Savour this moment, as it’s about to get grippy….
With a brief warm-up mile in the legs, the first climb of the day awaits. A brute of an ascent on tarmac, the 2.2-mile distance will get the blood-pumping and provide the grimpeurs an opportunity to steal a march on the rouleurs and diesel engines in the pack. Stunning views are to be had from a fast-backward glance as the road twists, turns and keeps on giving.
Ahead, the mountains beckon…
SECTOR 2 – the rough with the smooth
SECTOR 3 – pipe dreams
With the ascent on your back, ahead lies a flat hard-pack straight road that delivers the riders into the belly of the beast – Eigiau. This first mountain sector takes rally riders past remnants of the failed dam to the right, where the route swings left and a stunning panorama greets the eyes as glorious green lane goodness meets the wheels. The diesel engines fire up as the chase for the grimpeurs is on.
Known to the locals as the Black Pipes, these colossal behemoths of engineering ingenuity act as a constant backdrop to a relatively flat gravel hardpack trail. They draw the Rally riders along the ridge of the mountains at breakneck speed, delivering them in good time to Cowlyd, the deepest lake in Wales, sitting majestically at a height of 1,164 ft.
Transition Stage 2 – express elevator
SECTOR 4 – the bychan-eers
One of the longer Transition Stages will have rally riders scrubbing both elevation and a few millimetres of brake pads, in a very short distance. Descending from the Cowlyd is both demanding and technical in equal measures and so caution is required. Following the route from one valley to the next, a gentle ascent to Crafnant brings us to the first forest stage.
An initial climb along gravel a road, hemmed either side by thick pine forestry, rewards with a stunning vista of Snowdonia in all of its magnificence. What follows is a pure blast along fast and flowing gravel, rough in places but too tempting to feather the brakes too much. It’ll have riders zipping past lakes and descending at speed towards the next Transition Stage.
Transition Stage 3 – the pitstop
SECTOR 5 – up, over and into the forest
A brief stretch of tarmac on a Public Highway. Beware of motor vehicles and obey the Highway Code. Take particular care when crossing. The Gravel Rally Pit Stop can be found at the end of this stage, providing refuel options and brief respite.
This next sector opens with the most technical ascent of the rally. Once rideable, recent flooding has washed away much of the gravel and stone, to reveal a jagged underbelly. Despite being relatively short, this skill-demanding climb will see only the most abled stay on two-wheels as most turn to 2-feet and hike-a-bike. At the top, the Rally enters the plain between Siabod and Cribau. A fast hardpack, strewn with wide puddles, the trail whisks the riders to their 2nd forested section and first taste of true rallying conditions. Wide forest roads carpeted with gravel provide a fast adrenaline pumping section, rich in nostalgia of rallies gone by.
Transition Stage 4 – sarn helen
SECTOR 6 – the rollercoaster
A brief stretch of tarmac on a Public Highway into the village of Dolwydellan, leads the rally to the ancient Roman road Sarn Helen. This history-soaked highway is a literal passage through time. Beware of motor vehicles and obey the Highway Code. Take particular care when riding through the village. A shop can be found here for those desperate to re-supply.
Entry to the forest at Cwm Penamnen takes the Rally to areas not often visited. A fast gravel forestry road leads to a 2nd technical ascent, where again the very skilled will be tested to keep their feet on pedals. Reaching the top provides the best views of the entire course and an ultra-fast descent. The fun continues as the sector culminates in dirty, switchback mayhem.
Transition Stage 5 – follow my Lledr
SECTOR 8 – The Gwiber of Penmachno Part 1
A relatively long Transition Stage provides Riders with an opportunity to soak up the scenery and steel themselves for what’s to come. A mixture of single-track path, A and B road, vehicles and walkers will be encountered, so ride appropriately and be respectful of others.
The longest stage of the Rally has the riders starting on the hauntingly fairy-tale-like Lledr Valley trail, where skill and focus honed from the preceding stages will help navigate this enigmatic opening. From here, the forest roads of Penmachno and the roar of WRC cars still echoing through the trees, will give the riders the purest taste of rallying at its best. The answer to the question of why we ride bikes, can be found here.
Transition Stage 6 – where eagles dare
SECTOR 9 – The Gwiber of Penmachno Part 2
A super brief stretch of tarmac on a Public Highway. Beware of motor vehicles and obey the Highway Code. Take particular care when crossing. A village shop can be found here, providing that all important coffee and jelly babies.
Back into the forests, for a sweeping and fast descent through the outskirts of Penmachno forest. This section always brings a wide grin and is an opportunity for those looking to make up some time with some white-knuckle descending.
Transition Stage 7 – use the path luke
SECTOR 10 – the ace up elsi’s sleeve
A brief transition stage, taking the rally from the majestic grandeur of Penmachno forest to the mixed fir and broadleaf woodlands high above Betws-y-Coed. Make use of the cycle path and be mindful of motor vehicles.
The forest Sectors keep coming as the rally enters Gwydir. It’s easy to get lost in the interior of this woodland and precious time lost, so wits need to be kept about the riders. Wide roads hemmed in by thick woodland make this feel close and personal. With a sweeping, switchback finale, littered with technical aspects, this white-knuckle frenzy could be make or break.
Transition Stage 8- oooh that hurts
SECTOR 11 – the return of the marin
Another brief transition stage, whisking the rally over the famous Pont y Pair bridge in Betws-y-Coed and up into the spectacular Gwydyr forest once more with its towering Douglas Fir trees. Beware of motor vehicles and obey the Highway Code. Take particular care when crossing and watch out for the jumpers.
A rally in North Wales couldn’t happen without visiting the world class trails of the Marin. Expect some technical single track, fast descents, spectacular views and full-throttle descents. With only a couple of Sectors left, this could be the point in the rally where champions are made.
Transition Stage 9 – he did want you to ride to the top
SECTOR 12 – its all down hill from here
The best come to those who wait and this transition stage does just that. Cruising alongside the stunning beautiful Llyn Crafnant, the smell of barbecues, sounds of children squealing in the water and that sweet tune of a can of beer being opened will wash over the tired rally riders. A devilish descent into Trefriw brings us to our final climb of the day…..
It’s as fast as you dare go. Blink and you’ll miss it. A mix of gravel, hardpack and a little Welsh slate thrown in for good measure. The hill you just climbed to descend this will be a distant memory as the adrenaline kicks in.
Final Transition Stage – you can almost see it…… home
SECTOR 14 – the rally strikes back!
That’s it, the best is behind you and that bottle of cold beers lies just 10 minutes away. The memories of the day will start to wash over you as you wonder ….” how did an 80-mile ride take me 12 hours to complete”? The Gravel Rally makes no apology. It’s a big day in the saddle. You’ll know this when you finish.
The last chance to bag victory, this super flat and short sprint to the finish line could be the difference between glory and runner-up. The crowds will be cheering on the riders as they hurtle along the dirt road. Could this be the last throw of the dice for the potential Gravel Rally Champion?