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Welsh street crowned world's steepest road at knee-crunching 37.5%

Joe Robinson
16 Jul 2019

Ffordd Pen Llech takes record away from Baldwin Street in New Zealand

Cyclists hunting for the steepest climb in the world will not need to travel across to New Zealand any more as a small street hidden in North Wales has claimed the title.

 The town of Harlech has usurped Baldwin Street in Dunedin, on New Zealand's South Island, to take the prize of the world's steepest road.

The newly-crowned champion road is Ffordd Pen Llech, a narrow, winding residential street that local residents are claiming holds an average gradient of 37.5%, 1% higher than Baldwin Street, with a knee-crunching 1:3 gradient. 

Measurements were taken in Wales back in January with the decision made from guidelines that state the record will be based on the maximum gradient of a 10-metre distance and the altitude gained in that span.

Local residents in Wales who spoke of Guinness, the body which officiates the records, were specific on its requirements and how there were worried as to whether the 10th metre to be measured would meet requirements.

Eventually, it did and Guinness World Records then found Ffordd Pen Llech to be the winner.

Despite the road being part and parcel of life in Harlech for many years, local residents only noticed its World Record potential in January with resident Gwyn Headley the first to make the claim.

Talking to BBC Radio Wales at the beginning of the year, Headley said, 'I was driving down it in the summer when it struck me how steep it could be.'

Headley helped lead Wales to the title and on the announcement of the road's victory told The Guardian: 'I feel utter relief and jubilation. I feel sorry for Baldwin Street and the New Zealanders, but steeper is steeper.'

While most tourists visit the stunning Peninsula or Larnach Castle, Dunedin's Baldwin Street has morphed into an attraction of its own with many using the steep street to post optical illusions to social media or just simply seeing how hard it is to walk up. 

Some local residents are averse to the attention, with claims of tourists using the gardens of residents as rest stops, while others appreciate the attention it brings to this quiet city, including the city's mayor, Dave Cull, who brought some trademark dark humour to the bad news.

Talking to The Guardian, Cull said that, 'we will just have to arrange one of our periodic earthquakes and tilt Baldwin a bit more.'

Others have even mooted the idea of resurfacing the road to increase its gradients and take back the title. Of course, being so steep, both roads have been subject to Strava segments with cyclists attempting to tackle the testing slopes.

For Baldwin Street, Strava recognises the average gradient to be 18% over 300m with the KoM belonging to John Wazowski (complete with a picture of Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc), averaging 16.9kmh in a time of 1:19.

Ffordd Pen Llech, on the other hand, averages 21% over 200m with the KoM belonging to former UK Hill Climb Champion Dan Evans who scaled the climb in 56 seconds at an average speed of 15.3kmh.

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