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Wilmington Mountain Bike Festival gaining traction

Kids line up for the inaugural Hardy Kids Mountain Bike Race during the 2017 Wilmington Mountain Bike Festival. (News photo — Justin A. Levine)

WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Mountain Bike Festival will return Sept. 3 to 5 after taking a year off due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet health guidelines have altered the way people register for the event.

This year, onsite registration is not available, according to Josh Wilson, executive director of the Barkeater Trails Alliance, which organizes the festival.

“We always try to get as many people registered ahead of time online as possible,” Wilson said Tuesday, Aug. 31. “This year, because of COVID and trying to comply with the guidelines, do screening and get information to people, we required online registration for everyone.”

Registration closed on Aug. 25 at midnight.

The Wilmington Mountain Bike Festival was established in 2017 as a fundraiser for BETA, which builds, maintains and advocates for a system of community and backcountry trails for mountain biking and ski touring in the greater High Peaks region.

“We’re excited to finally be bringing it back this year,” Wilson said.

Wilson said 175 people had registered for the festival, which is about the same for online registration in past year, according to Wilson. In 2019, a total of 250 attended the festival. That included people who registered onsite and Canadians, who usually account for about one-third of the participants. The U.S. has continued to close the border to non-essential traffic for Canadians at least until Sept. 21.

Friday begins with an afternoon check-in for registered participants and campsite set-up. The Hardy Hour Group Ride, featuring a tour of Wilmington’s most popular mountain bike trails, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. And a post-Hardy Hour barbecue, provided by Specialized and Placid Planet Bicycles, will be held from 8 to 10 p.m.

Saturday is filled with group rides for all ages and abilities to various locations, all being led by local volunteers who know the trails.

“Some of them are just a couple of hours. Some of them are all day,” Wilson said. “By doing the group rides, you get kind of a locals tour. You get to see maybe trails you’ve seen before but maybe in a different way. Or if you’re new to the area, you get a nice guided ride, you get a good introduction to the trails.”

Mechanic support from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. will be handled by High Peaks Cyclery, Wild Flows Tours and Viking Ski & Cycle. The day ends with a community concert from 6 to 9 p.m. with live music by Twisted Pine, beer garden by Ausable Brewing Company and food by Barley Sandwich. The Famous “Dangertown” bonfire will be held from 9 p.m. to midnight.

On Sunday morning, there will be group rides and the Hardy Kids Mountain Bike Races. Shuttles to the popular Poor Man’s Downhill trail will be offered from 1 to 4 p.m.

For more information, visit online at www.wilmingtonmtbfestival.com.

Hardy Kids Mountain Bike Race

In 2017, Lake Placid fourth graders Charlie Wilson and Henry Loher (now entering eighth grade at the Lake Placid Middle School) organized the first Hardy Kids Mountain Bike Race during the Wilmington Mountain Bike Festival. Registration proceeds for those races will go toward the Hardy Kids projects — mainly the Randy’s Bike Park, where children can test their mountain biking skills.

With help from the town of Wilmington and volunteers in the summer of 2020, the Hardy Kids transformed a recreation park behind the town’s only gas station into a mountain bike skills park. This year, they hope to use proceeds from the races to maintain current features of the park and build an informational kiosk with a bike repair station, pump and water source.

Charlie Wilson’s mother, Mary Werner, helps organize the Hardy Kids Mountain Bike Race and on Tuesday, Aug. 31, she recalled how the first race unfolded.

When Charlie was 9 years old, he learned that the Wilmington/Whiteface 100 mountain bike race — a qualifier for the Leadville 100 mountain bike race — would not accept children racers.

“And he just made this comment to me, ‘How come they never have any races for kids?’ … And I said, ‘If you don’t like it, make your own race.’ And that’s how it kind of started,” Werner said.

Charlie had raced in the New York Ski Educational Foundation’s Alpine program and liked how they did the races. NYSEF helps still helps with timing and the use of their podiums for the Hardy Kids Mountain Bike Race.

“They’re just out there having fun. I like seeing kids outdoors, and you can’t deny competition. It inspires kids,” Werner said. “I think everyone’s favorite part of the race is watching the balance bikers race, 2 and 3 years old. It’s absolutely the cutest thing you’d ever want to see.”

Theer are races for boys and girls in several categories: pre-K balance bikes, kindergarten through grade 2 pedal bikes, grades 3-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12.

There is online registration only for the Hardy Kids Mountain Bike Race through 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4 at www.bikereg.com/hardy-kids-mtb-race.