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Mountain Biking in Wales

It may lack altitude, but that isn't stopping a tiny village in Wales from modeling itself after Crested Butte, Colorado, an international mountain-biking center. Llanwrtyd Wells bills itself as the smallest town in Great Britain but would much rather be the UK's top mountain-biking resort. Set in a stretch of the upper Wye Valley already etched with walking trails and only 180 miles from London, the town makes an ideal off-road riding center. There are more than 200 square miles of countryside. (The only drawback is the ever-present possibility of thigh-deep mud.)

The idea of turning the town into a mountain bike mecca came to 18-year-resident Gordon Green, owner of the Neuadd Arms Hotel and the Red Kite Mountain Bike Center, after he read about Crested Butte's success with the sport. True, with only three hotels, three pubs, and 10 guesthouses, Llanwrtyd Wells is smaller than its Colorado counterpart. Yet it's every bit as athletically inclined.

More than 800 turn out for the annual 22-mile Man vs. Horse Marathon, in which runners and cyclists compete against the clock with horses over a cross-country course. In August there are the World Bog-Snorkeling championships, a muddy affair requiring entrants to ride a bike or swim for two lengths of a 60-yard bog. And in November hundreds show up for the Real Ale Wobble, where free pints are poured at specified checkpoints and medals are handed out to all who stumble with their bikes over the finish line.

For information on mountain biking in the area:
Gordon Green, Neuadd Arms Hotel, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys, Wales LD5 4RB; 011 44 1-591/610236.

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