Blaenau is new championship venue for cycling’s adrenaline junkies

Wales’s newest purpose-built downhill mountain biking centre has been given the official seal of approval by being chosen to host the first round of this year’s British Championships.

Antur Stiniog, perched above the slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, in the heart of Snowdonia, will welcome the cream of the UK’s downhill riders to the event over the weekend of March 29 and 30.

The centre is part of the Llechwedd Slate Caverns complex and is already proving a huge hit with the downhill biking fraternity with world champions Gee, Dan and Rachel Atherton and top riders from across the UK and Europe riding there regularly.

The organisers are expecting over 350 riders to flock to the course for the two days along with over 1,000 spectators who will line the 1.3 kilometre double black run – it drops a startling 250 metres, about one in five.

It’s a rapid rise to prominence for such a new facility and one which since it was started in the summer of 2012 has created quite a stir in the mountain biking world – and 15 jobs.

Over 12,000 bikers have descended its four trails in the 18 months since it opened, it’s been featured in the mountain bikers bible, MBUK magazine, and former world downhill champion Gee Atherton raced a peregrine falcon down it’s precipitous slopes for a BBC film – he lost but gave the bird a run for its money.

Mountain biking is one of the UK’s fastest growing sports but downhill mountain biking is something else again, the extreme version of the sport where riders plummet down near vertical, rocky, often tree-lined courses.

The man in charge at Antur Stiniog, a not for profit community enterprise, is former Welsh and English downhill champion Adrian Bradley, 42, who took up the sport almost 20 years ago and has been competing for the last ten.

He said: “I started on cross-country mountain biking and just decided to give downhill a go because it looked a bit of fun.

“It’s an incredibly competitive sport but there is a real camaraderie among the riders as well and I think that’s because it’s just you and your bike against the course and it’s that that you trying to beat.”

Antur Stiniog isn’t the only downhill track in North Wales – there are a number and Llangollen also hosts a round of the British Championships – but it is the only purpose-built centre with a full uplift service.

This means riders are taken up to the head of the course by minibus with a trailer for their bikes before they set off down one of the four current trails, blue for beginners, red for intermediate riders and the two black runs, slippery, unforgiving, rock-strewn paths mountain goats would think twice about before tackling.

Downhill bikes are a world away from road bikes and even differ markedly from cross-country bikes – they have full suspension front and back, shock absorbers for the jarring impacts and are often heavier.

Dee Reynolds, Strategy Director for Tourism Partnership Mid Wales, said: “Antur Stiniog is in such an iconic setting, in the heart of Snowdonia.

“It’s an amazing facility for one of the UK’s fastest-growing adrenaline sports and it fits perfectly with our aim to create high quality outdoor activity venues here in Meirionnydd.

“It’s a great venue which will attract bike riders from across the UK throughout the year and will provide important tourism jobs in the area.”

At Antur Stiniog there is also a second blue run under construction as well as a skills track with a range of jumps, drops, tabletops and berms, banked curves, and Adrian added: “This is an extreme sport and we always assess riders before we advise them which runs to tackle and suggest that they warm up first.

“We have seen a lot of interest in the sport and that includes local interest as well and we’ve got some really good young riders, some as young as ten or 11, riding now.

“It would be good to see them coming through in the next few years and maybe going on to compete in world championship events.

“In the meantime we are always looking to improve our facilities here . It’s a spectacular course with incredible views from the top though you need to keep your eyes on the trail or you’ll be in trouble.

“It is unique in terms of the terrain though. It’s a very open site and you’ve got views of Snowdon one way and the Rhinog Mountains the other.

“It gives you a sense of being much more remote than we really are and definitely gives you that big mountain feel in the way that only Fort William in the UK does.”

Antur Stiniog, funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, is open with a full uplift service from Thursday to Sunday every week and facilities include bike hire and tuition as well as a café/restaurant and shower facilities. For more information go to

It is part of The One Big Adventure, a £4 million project to create top class outdoor activity opportunities at four centres of excellence in the Meirionnydd area of southern Snowdonia – the other three are the Coed y Brenin Forest Park, Prysor Angling at Trawsfynydd and the Glan Llyn Centre, near Bala.

To see world champion Gee Atherton’s duel with a peregrine falcon at Antur Stiniog go to

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