Sunday 25th May 2014 - 8am onwards
Distance: 103 Miles
Food Stops: 3
The Cawr starts on the picturesque Aberystwyth seafront, known as the Biarritz of the North, before making its way to the foot of Penglais hill; this is the first and perhaps hardest of all the sportive climbs with a constant incline of nearly 7% for a mile! However, there are distractions to take away the pain as it passes the iconic National library of Wales and Aberystwyth University along with the imposing Pantycelyn building which was home to Prince Charles during his studies. As you reach the student footbridge spanning the road the end is in sight as the road levels off and takes you towards Clarach. Once the summit has been crested the road sweeps down through woods, care should be taken as halfway down the hill is a tight hairpin that can catch riders out.
The route then takes the riders along the coast on an undulating road to the top of Borth hill, which affords stunning views of Cardigan Bay with the sandy beach stretching to Ynys Las and on a clear day Cader Idris, Snowdonia and the Llyn peninsular visible in the distance. The road descends into Borth and gives the riders their first chance of some level pedalling. The route turns East as the road approaches the Ynyslas sand dunes and heads toward the village of Treddol and then Southward through Taliesin, birthplace of the famous Welsh Bard, to the village of Talybont. Spectators wishing to see the riders enroute could enjoy a roadside seat and pint outside the Black lion pub at the foot of the next major climb up to Nant y Moch reservoir.
The climb up to Nant y Moch is perhaps the closest thing Wales gets to an Alpine pass, including flower rich pastures with contented livestock and home to an abundance of Red Kites. This is a long but steady climb, 5 miles at a shade over 4.6% gaining 1253ft of altitude. The road takes the riders up into truly wild West Wales, the Cambrian Mountains. This is an area with open moorland hills, forests, lakes and streams abounding. Once the summit is reached the road winds its way along some lovely smooth tarmaced roads alongside Nant y Moch reservoir with the 2467ft Plynlimon mountain, the source of five rivers including the Wye and Severn, dominating to the East. Here in 1401 Owain Glyndwr united Wales and opposed King Henry the Fourth's despotic oppression of the people. At this place, Owain and his followers, hopelessly outnumbered, engaged and defeated a formidable English army of over 10,000 men. Once across the impressive dam wall the riders ascend the short climb up towards Plynlimon, don't worry it doesn't continue to the top, before heading South along a fast smooth road towards the village of Ponterwyd. Care should be taken at the end of this road as it descends past Dinas Reservoir into Ponterwyd as the road has a couple of sharp corners before the riders cross onto the A44 road.
The route then takes the riders from Ponterwyd past Parsons Bridge to the historic village of Devils bridge. Upon entering the village the riders cross over one of the most iconic bridges in Wales, the World famous tourist attraction Devils Bridge. The bridge which spans the river Mynach, the name of this route, is now three bridges built one on top each other, with the original bridge built almost a thousand years ago. According to Welsh legend the bridge and village name derives from the fact that the original bridge was too difficult for humans to build and thus the Devil built it in return for the soul of the first person across it, hopefully you will not to have to make this pact to finish the route! Once across the bridge, the route climbs again! This time South East up toward another historic landmark, ‘The Arch’, which was built to celebrate the nearby Hafod estate.
From the Arch the road descends past the wooded and landscaped estate of Hafod, it was developed in the early 19th century and is considered one of the most important Picturesque Landscapes in Europe. The road climbs slightly here before descending along some steep sections toward the village of Pont Rhyd y Groes, where the riders cross the River Ystwyth before reaching the second feed stop and the splitting of the Mynach and Cawr routes.
From Pont Rhyd y Groes the route heads South, on a mostly flat to lumpy road, through the villages of Ysbyty Ystwyth and Fair Rhos to the village of Pontrhydfendigaid. Pontrhydfendigaid lies on the river Teifi and is home to the ancient ruins of the Cistercian Strata Florida Abbey, founded 1164. Riders should be aware that the surrounding area is home to the infamous ‘Beast of Bont’ said to be a panther or other large cat that was released into the wild in the 70’s with attacks on sheep reported through the 80’s and 90’s with the most recent attack reported in the national press just last year… So riders would be advised to pedal hard and not wear wool through this area! After running the gauntlet of the Beast of Bont riders continue South to the old drover town of Tregaron, home to the vast marshland of Cors Caron, or Tregaron bog, which is the most intact surviving example of a raised bog landscape in the United Kingdom! From here the road continues South West along the A485 to its most Southerly point, the town of Lampeter, home of the equiminical and theological University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. Riders won’t have time to pause for any theology or equiminical matters though as they head North on the A482 and B4337 across the river Aeron, through Talsarn and up the testing climb; 2.6 miles at 5.9% climbing 819ft, before reaching the village of Cross inn. From here the route heads East along the B4577 through the village of Bethania to the village of Tyncelyn. From here the route turns North again along the A485 and through the village of Bronnant and down through some fast sweeping bends into the village of Lledrod. A short 5% climb takes the riders to the top of the long fast descent into the village of Llanilar, care should be taken at the bottom as the riders turn right at the roundabout in the village. The route now heads South East along the B4575 before once again crossing the Ystwyth at Trawscoed Bridge.
The riders now head North West through the village of Abermagwr before turning East to tackle the routes final climb. The climb here is again steady, 3.2 miles at 4.9% climbing 848ft, with the road ramping up just past the Farmers Arms pub in Llanfihangel y Creuddyn. This climb takes the riders from the valley floor back up onto the open hills, a sharp left turn at the top taking the riders onto the A4120 road from Devils Bridge to Aberystwyth and the welcome downhill section to the finish. The road sticks to the top of the ridge with views down to the River Rheidol to the North and the Snowdonia Mountain range in the distance, before the riders see Aberystwyth, with the Wellington memorial prominent on top of Pendinas signalling the end is in sight! Care should be taken towards the bottom of the descent as the road comes into Penparcau as it is a busy junction with a steep ramp down to it. The riders cross onto Penparcau road and ride over the roundabout onto the A487 towards the town, the road sweeps down and crosses Trefechan bridge over the River Rheidol. This bridge was the site of Welsh language society’s first battle for the Welsh language to be officially recognised in year 1963. The riders will take a sharp left once across the bridge onto South road and back on to the promenade.
This final section along the seafront takes the riders past Aberystwyth’s most celebrated landmarks; the 13th Edwardian Castle and the distinctive town war memorial, which is considered to be one of the finest in Britain. Followed by the Old college, which following public contributions, was established in 1872 thus becoming Wales’s first university. The final landmark before the finishing straight is Aberystwyth’s Royal Pier, again Wales’s first, it opened in 1865. Sadly the weather hasn't been kind to it and much of the original 242 meter length has been lost to the sea. The riders cross the finish line on the return to the bandstand where no doubt they will be seeking a reward for their travails in one of the sea front ice cream parlours or fish and chips shops!