With the Tour de France having reached the mountains, we've been inspired to ride some epic climbs closer to home.

We're not short of hills in Mid Wales, but here are our pick of some of the best - 5 formidable hills, with breathtaking descents and spectacular views.

1. The Bwlch y Groes


The Bwlch y Groes is one of the highest road climbs in Wales. Its English name, 'hellfire pass' gives you a sense of what's in store, and it's considered by Simon Warren to be one of the toughest in the UK.

With 385m climbing in just over 3.5km for an average of 12.5%. This flatters the brutal top section of the climb though, with its blind summit and final 25% slope. Steeped in the folklore of the Milk Race when riders nailed this on a 42x23/24, the Russians used to get off and walk up because it was quicker.

We'd recommend more conservative gearing and careful pacing instead.

Height gain: 546m
Length: 3.5km
Gradient: average 12.5%, maximum 25%

How to get there: You can take on the Bwlch from two directions, but the true test is starting from the village of Dinas Mawddwy where you turn off from the A470 and into the Afon Dyfi valley. From there, the mountain road ramps up onto the foot of the climb proper.

2. The Devil’s Staircase

Cyclist pushing bike up hill


Another climb often featuring in the Milk Race was the Devil’s Staircase, which rises up from the stunning Abergwesyn pass in Powys.

The stats suggest this is a relatively slight incline – and it is until you hit the final kilometre which is dominated by a wall of up to 25% with two hairpin bends.

As the footage from the 1992 Milk Race shows, even team cars struggled to make the summit!

Height gain:227m
Length: 5km
Gradient: average 4.5%, maximum 25%

How to get there: The Devil’s Staircase can be reached from across the Abergwesyn pass, turning off the A483 in Llanwrtyd Wells or Beulah. Alternatively you can take on the back side of the Devil’s Staircase by following the signposted mountain road from Tregaron.


3. Nant y Moch Reservoir

Road cyclist with reservoir


The climb up to Nant y Moch reservoir is a local favourite, and features in the AberCycleFest Wild West Sportive. It has the feel of an alpine pass, with stunning views of the river valley below.

A 4.1km stretch of almost constant climbing and a modest 224m gain means this isn't the steepest of climbs. But the average 5.5% gradient means you can drop a gear and grind out a high cadence whilst thinking of Geraint Thomas storming up the Alps.

Height gain: 224m

Length: 4.1km

Gradient: average 5.5%, maximum 8%

How to get there: Nant y Moch reservoir sits in the centre of the Pumlumon range in the Cambrian Mountains. This is most often climbed from the village of Talybont; turn off the A487 north of Aberystwyth, at the square in front of the Black Lion and White Lion pub. The lane that runs along side the Back Lion marks the start of the climb.


4. Dylife to Staylittle Mountain Road

Countryside


The mountain road between Machynlleth and Llanidloes is an absolute gem, and offers a series of tough climbs. The most challenging of these pulls brings you up to the stunning Wynford-Vaughan Thomas viewpoint at Dylife.

From the crossroads at the bottom of the climb, it is just over 2km with 190m of ascent. An average gradient of 9.5% is made tougher by a series of ramps of up to 17%.

The grind is worth it though; on a clear day you'll get spectacular views of Pembrokeshire, Snowdon and Bardsey Island.

Height gain: 190m
Length: 2km
Gradient: average 9.5%, maximum 17%

How to get there: This climb is a section of the mountain road between Machynlleth and Llanidloes. From Machynlleth turn right off the high street (A489) and begin the climb up past the well signposted golf course. Alternatively, from Llanidloes you can attack the climb from the B4518 which skirts Llyn Clywedog.


5. Elan Valley

Reservoir in Mid Wales

Climbing deserves a spectacular backdrop, and you won’t be disappointed by the views on as you ascend through the Elan Valley.

Although relatively flat in profile with an average gradient of 2.5% over 16km, the climbs up to each successive dam and the final hairpin ascent up to the mountain road, will definitely get you out of the saddle.

The steady climbing gives you plenty of time to enjoy the incredible views across Craig Goch and Pen y Garreg dams, which are set against rolling hills and lakeside forests. If you fancy an off-road alternative, you can follow the cycle path on the other side of the dams.

Height gain: 190m
Length: 16km
Gradient: average 2.5%, maximum 25%

How to get there: Start either in the town of Rhayader, or at the Elan Valley Visitors Centre on the B4518 which heads up through the valley. At the top of the climb you can either turn left over the mountain towards Cwmystwyth (B574) for Aberystwyth, or right over another stiff climb and epic descent into Rhayader.


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