The Wilmington community is gearing up for a major mountain biking event this weekend.
The Wilmington/Whiteface 100K will serve as a qualifier for the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race - one of the largest and most prestigious mountain bike races in North America.
And while gearheads are salivating at a chance to qualify for the Leadville, community leaders and tourism officials are excited to showcase Wilmington to a national audience.
Jon Lundin is spokesman for the state Olympic Regional Development Authority. He says the 100-kilometer race will feature grueling terrain along backcountry trails in the towns of Wilmington and Jay - culminating with a tough finish on Whiteface Mountain.
Lundin adds that anyone who finishes inside the top 100 on Sunday will earn a spot in the Leadville race, held annually in the Colorado Rockies.
"The Leadville race in mountain biking, it's safe to say it's the super bowl for that sport," he said. "It's the biggest annual race that's held for mountain biking. In the past, in order to get into that race, it was a lottery system. Different this year is the three qualifying races - and to have the Wilmington/Whiteface race be the first of the three races, it's huge for the region and it not only brings tremendous exposure about mountain biking to the area, but it brings world-class athletes back to Lake Placid and it's another super biking event for the region."
For Randy Preston, Wilmington's supervisor, the weekend races and festivities offer a chance to put his community on the map.
Preston notes that Whiteface is often associated with Lake Placid, the Olympic village - even though the legendary ski hill is located in Wilmington.
"It's a good feeling - it's a very big step for us to get our name tagged onto this," he said. "I understand fully where ORDA is coming from in their marketing, but it can be deceiving. We're happy to let people know that Whiteface is in Wilmington."
Jim McKenna is president of the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. He says the Leadville qualifier will provide an economic boost for Wilmington and the Olympic region. And he says there's room for the event to grow.
"Right now we have just about 200 riders in the race," he said. "It's not so much that we're looking at this year, but this is one of those events that we feel can grow significantly over the next three to five years."
The Wilmington/Whiteface Bike Fest also features the Whiteface Uphill Bike Race on Saturday - a five-mile trek up the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway.
Additionally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will host the grand opening of the Beaver Brook Mountain Bike Trail System.
DEC Region 5 spokesman David Winchell says the trail system features biking and hiking opportunities for all ability levels. The grand opening ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the trailhead, located on Hardy Road in Wilmington.