Uphill race draws record crowd

Chad Tavernia, of Malone, makes his way up the Veteran’s Memorial Highway on Whiteface Mountain during the 18th annual Wilmington Uphill Bike Race on Friday evening. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

WILMINGTON — The 18th annual Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race drew nearly 400 riders for a punishing 11-mile bike ride to the castle near the top of the state’s fifth highest mountain.

Three hundred seventy-seven people converged on Wilmington Friday evening for the first of two days of bicycling race action, with the Leadville Race Series Wilmington Whiteface 100k mountain bike race taking place Saturday.

Michelle Preston, of the Whiteface Visitor’s Bureau, said the race draws so many people due to its one-of-a-kind nature.

“We’ve topped 100 more than we had last year; right now we’re at 377,” Preston said before the race. “It’s growing tremendously. And we’re also part of the BUMP series, which stands for Bike Up Mountain Point series. So there’s several mountains in the area, and they collect points and someone will then win the BUMP series for having the fastest score.

“I have not understood (why people want to ride to the top of Whiteface). But the view is amazing and not everyone can say that they’ve done it. Everyone can say they’ve driven a car up there, but this takes an extra-special type of endurance.”

Hundreds of riders wait for the start of the Whiteface Mountain Uphill Bike Race on Friday, with their ultimate destination — the summit of Whiteface Mountain — looming in the background. (Enterprise photo — Justin A. Levine)

Team Placid Planet rider Chad Tavernia, of Malone, was the first across the finish line after a mass start at the base of Whiteface Ski Area. Tavernai finished the ride in just a hair over 52 minutes.

“I race for the Team Placid Planet, and I’ve done this a few times. This is my third time, and I like to climb hills, so I just figured I’d give it a go,” he said. “I really didn’t expect to win. I figured I’d be somewhere near the front, but once I kind of got into my rhythm, I just tried to stay in my own rhythm and ride my own race.

“I do have a couple of hills near my house and I do kind of hill repeats on them a lot, so I try to find ways to do hills even though I don’t live up here. But I do ride up here quite a bit with the team.”

The Leadville 100k race begins at 7 a.m. Saturday and is part of Wilmington’s Whiteface Bike Fest.