Downhill speed freaks take to north Wales peaks

Rider jumps on bike at Red Bull Hardline course at Dyfi Bike Park Image copyright Sven Martin/Dyfi Bike Park

It's downhill all the way - as two venues help north Wales stake its claim to being one of the world's top extreme mountain biking destinations.

Saturday witnesses almost 30 of the world's best riders head to Gwynedd for one of the toughest races, the Red Bull Hardline.

The same day also sees the official opening of the latest trails at Blaenau Ffestiniog's Antur Stiniog centre.

The sport is now worth more than £54m to the Welsh economy every year.

"I've been all over the world racing and riding - Chile, Canada and across Europe - and I have to say what we have here in this county is outstanding," said Adrian Bradley, the bike development officer for Antur Stiniog.

"We've got a fantastic playground here in Wales for mountain biking."

The bike trail centre is run as a not-for-profit community enterprise, and supports charities and groups in the Snowdonia slate town.

Four new trails will be opened by Steve Peat - regarded as one of the all-time best ever downhill mountain bike champions.

Image copyright Antur Stiniog
Image caption Boom! This is the new 'Detonator" red run at Antur Stiniog

The trails include a green route for family riding and beginners, all the way to a new black extreme downhill stretch.

The new development has cost about £130,000 to build, with funding from the Welsh Government's tourism support scheme.

Phil Stasiw, who is chair of Mountain Bike Wales, said the investment reflected a boom in the sport across Wales.

"Ever since the first spade was planted at Coed y Brenin back in the 90s, Wales has been at the forefront of designing trail centres and bike parks for all abilities.

"Wales is not only one of the best countries to mountain bike in Europe, but has a worldwide reputation."

That reputation will be put to the test, as a global audience tunes into watch the Red Bull Hardline event across the weekend at the Dinas Mawddwy, near Dolgellau.

Image copyright Dyfi Bike Park
Image caption The Dyfi Bike Park is the brainchild of the world champion winning Atherton brothers and sister

It has been pulled together by the siblings behind the new Dyfi Bike Park - Dan, Gee and Rachel Atherton - who between them have 49 biking world cups and eight world championship titles to their names.

Dan Atherton has designed the Hardline course - including a 65ft (20m) jump to finish.

"The Dyfi has some of best riding in the world and Red Bull Hardline lets us share that with literally millions of mountain-bike fans across the globe," said the course creator.

"At Hardline there are no checks, no limits - it's going to be massive."

The Welsh Government - which is supporting both Antur Stiniog and the Dyfi Park race - said Visit Wales has now invested more than £4m in developing mountain biking since 2011.

"It promises to be an spectacular weekend of mountain biking in north Wales," said an official.

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