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Officials prepare for first Wildwood Games

Posted: July 2, 2014 - 12:14am  |  Updated: July 2, 2014 - 3:11am
Volunteers from SORBA-CSRA, Daniel Allen (with chainsaw) and Banks Mumford work to clear a portion of trail on the Lake Springs Loop off of Bartram Trail, east of Wildwood Park. The volunteers are helping prepare for the Wildwood Games, which will feature 100K and 50K mountain bike races and various distances of trail running races Aug. 23-24.  Special Photo
Special Photo
Volunteers from SORBA-CSRA, Daniel Allen (with chainsaw) and Banks Mumford work to clear a portion of trail on the Lake Springs Loop off of Bartram Trail, east of Wildwood Park. The volunteers are helping prepare for the Wildwood Games, which will feature 100K and 50K mountain bike races and various distances of trail running races Aug. 23-24.

With a little more than seven weeks to go before the inaugural Wildwood Games event, Randy DuTeau says the details -- hundreds of details -- are coming together for what he hopes will become the county’s trademark outdoor sporting event.

“This is one of the first mountain bike races that I have done, and probably the most ambitious,” said DuTeau, who serves as executive director of the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The race will feature both 31-mile and 62-mile “marathon” mountain bike courses on Saturday, Aug. 23 and trail running races on Aug. 24, with distances ranging from 10K to 50K.

DuTeau describes the race as a “tune-up” event to prepare to host the USA Cycling Marathon Mountain Bike National Championships in 2015 and 2016. Between 150 and 200 mountain bike competitors are expected for the first games and DuTeau expects that number to more than double next year.

“It’s a test event and we wanted to see some good participation and I think participation is going to be better than expected,” he said. “Having a national championship is going to raise the profile for the event dramatically.”

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has allocated $50,000 to put on the Wildwood Games this year, but the current working budget has expenses coming in at less than $40,000. Entry fees and event sponsorships should offset that expense by about $25,000, according to budget documents supplied by DuTeau.

In the meantime, volunteers have been working to clear and maintain about 90 miles of trails running across state, federal and privately-owned land where the competition will occur.

Dave Kozlowski, president of SORBA-CSRA, the local chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, said the group has helped design the routes which will take riders on two giant loops of interconnected trails.

“It’s difficult because of the sheer number of miles,” Kozlowski said.

DuTeau said the length and remoteness of the course also makes it difficult to reach injured or stranded riders miles from any paved road.

My first and foremost concern is always going to be safety,” he said.

DuTeau plans to have an “all agency” meeting next week to go over emergency plans with everyone involved, including county and state agencies and representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, since much of the race will take place of federally managed land.

“These events require time to build,” he said. “I would hope by 2016 we would see about 1,000 athletes.”

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