The Gravel Rally

Toby WillisRider Stories1 Comment

Willing test subjects for the Gravel Rally 2022

If GBDuro is described as ‘a scrappy rolling picnic’ then the Pan Celtic Race’s new Gravel Rally is ‘a fast and feisty feast’ across some of North Wales’s most thrilling tracks and trails. Fast and a feast because it is meant to be devoured within the confines of a 24h day, and feisty, because, well…

Taylor Doyle

When the Pan Celtic Race Team asked me to get a crew together to come test out this legendary gravel route that I had been hearing whisperings of for the last year or so, I couldn’t wait to see what treasures they had in store. An off-road event by the notorious Pan Celtic Clan?? Sign me up and take my money! With about 80 miles and over 10,000 feet of climbing, you know what you’re signing up for. But even then, you don’t really know until you are in it do you? This route is a true micro adventure that doesn’t feel so micro once you are in the thick of it. If you have raced the Pan Celtic before, you know how thoughtfully curated and spirited their routes are, and the Gravel Rally carries that same magic – but this time off-road and with your tyres to the earth.

The Gravel Rally is meant to be finished in one-go, and will surely be an exciting first-time event as it is yet to be seen how fast completion can be pushed with that race-day adrenaline. The recce, which was carried out by a keen group of gravel cyclists, some PCR finishers and some new to the clan, was divided into two days of seriously challenging and beautiful off-roading. The glorious loop zig zags down, across, and back up Snowdonia National Park, where PCR creator, Mally Ryan grew up riding his bike. Knowing that Mally had a hand in creating this route (over many years I might add), is both exciting and slightly terrifying.

In true Mally style, this route starts with a belter of a road climb away from the safety of the adventure parc where the event is hosted. You are quickly forced to face the reality of the bountiful journey you have laid out in front of you while you battle some pretty mean gradients to jump start your heart. It isn’t long though until you leave the pavement behind and become immersed in wild Welsh landscapes, in a way that you can never truly get when confined by the road. The variation in off-road terrain on the Gravel Rally is seriously stimulating stuff. It ticks all the boxes for off-road enjoyment in one memorable route. One moment you are being guided through densely wooded forest, along some satisfyingly flowy single-track, and the next you are flying down some wide-open gravel fire roads, gaining the kind of speed that brings a crazed smile to your muddy face.

The technical bits were where I got most excited. I love riding until I literally can’t anymore, and am forced to accept the reality of a hike-a-bike section, which there were plenty of. If you ride this entire route without putting your foot down, I will be seriously impressed, I also probably won’t believe you. There are some insanely steep and loose sections in this wonderful slog, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just as you are getting to the point of exhaustion and frustration with relentless and slippery hike-a-bike, you are soon soaring over some of the most rewarding downhill trails Wales has to offer. PSA: this reflection has definitely been influenced by type 2 fun, but would you expect any different? Did I mention that we had some of the continuously wettest weather I have ever had to ride in during the first day of this fateful recce? Type 2 fun was undoubtedly had. As challenging as it was, we still did it fairly comfortably over two days, which will of course, not be the case when it comes to the official event. The idea of mashing those two days together into one heroic push seems both savage and inconceivable. That being said, I am absolutely down to give it a whirl, and secretly can’t wait. I was so cold and cramped from all of the wet climbing after the first day that when I bent down to touch my toes for a stretch, I was sure that I had pulled both of my hamstrings at once and hobbled around convinced I wouldn’t be able to ride the next day until it was finally remedied by a hot shower that evening. I honestly don’t know if I would recognise some sections of the route without the rain. The views that did get revealed between the clouds were absolutely stunning, and I can’t wait to return.

I envisage the Gravel Rally becoming a whole new facet of the Pan Celtic legacy, and being a mountain biker and a gravel grinder myself, I am pretty stoked about it. Also, for those wanting a taste of the good stuff, with slightly less of the enduring feistiness, there will be a shorter version of the route available to challenge yourself with. I personally really hope to see more women at their June event, so please, if you are reading this, please share with the women cyclists in you life who love a bit of a challenge, and if it is for you, I implore you to give it a try! I will certainly be there, and so will a whole community of supportive and friendly riders waiting to welcome you to the clan.

Words by Taylor Doyle Photography by Dan King (BreakawayDigital)

From lung burning climbs (on and off-road), beautiful forest trails and rolling tracks across open scenery the Gravel Rally course has a bit of everything for everyone. However, be warned, the full course isn’t for the faint hearted particularly if the Welsh weather comes out to play. With a hefty amount of climbing and a decent amount of hike-a-bike for the the sane amongst us it was a challenge worthy of the title. The route is well thought out and it is clear that years of local knowledge have created an event that showcases the best of Snowdonian gravel. I can’t wait to ride it again!

Tamzin Dewar

The Pan Celtic Race route planning gurus have been at it again, this time they’ve created a gravel route which showcases some of the best Welsh trails using their extensive local knowledge. The route has plenty of challenges but is rideable by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. It’s not just another gravel event, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Five Stars

‘Fast’ Tony Clare

The Snowdonia area is an absolute gem of the UK, it feels like the Alps, you would be hard pressed to find someone who won’t love this route. There are plenty of epic climbs that will get you off your seat, head down and grinding, but every elevation meter gained is SO worth it. I was in awe of the incredible views and down hill single-tracks were so much fun. Then to top it off the route ends at a great venue with everything you need, perfect.

Vee Lowe

I feel aliiiiiiiiiiive

Meg Davies

The Gravel Rally has everything you could want, some leg sapping climbs, awesome descents, areas of hike-a-bike and techy stuff to test your skills all whilst being surrounded in such beauty that Wales has to offer. If it’s raining be prepared to get wet, very wet but don’t let that put you off, even in the worst weather this is one not to miss!

Neil Lauder

I was really impressed with this route, a truly mixed bag of terrain from start to finish, from fast flowing fire-roads to technical descents and some seriously punchy climbs. The consistency throughout was on point, no ‘boring bits’ to link up the good stuff and even if you were to hit the odd road it gave a good bit of respite allowing the legs to recover and that never hurt anyone did it?! Incredible scenery, the best of Wales turn after turn

Danny MF Lane

More information on the Gravel Rally COMING SOON so please hit the ‘Join the Clan’ tab in order to be kept up to date with all future news, stories and event details. Thanks

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