Knoxville, TN - This weekend, Baker Creek Preserve will see its first mountain bike race. Baker Creek Preserve is the newest 100-acre area of Knoxville's Urban Wilderness added by Legacy Parks Foundation. The National Interscholastic Cycling Association's Tennessee League organized a statewide race with about 170 middle and high school competitors participating. Students will pre-ride the course on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. in preparation for the full race, which is on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Baker Creek Preserve will be closed to other riders during this time on Sunday, but everyone is encouraged to join in cheering for the students.

15 teams of students and their families will travel to Knoxville for this race from all across the state, plus a group from Kentucky. The local team, the Smoky Mountain Bears, will be ready to race with 15 students entered and support from their volunteer coach, Doug Sharp. Parents and fans will park at the 1516 Taylor Road entrance and cheer for the students at the start/finish line and along the race route.

Many parents such as Gale Fulton, the father of a student on the Smoky Mountain Bears team and the Director of the University of Tennessee School of Landscape Architecture, are supportive of the sport and the development of trails in the region. "It's exciting to have mountain biking as an organized sport for our kids," said Fulton. "Increasingly in metro areas and throughout the East Tennessee region, we're seeing an abundance of trails developed at a variety of skill levels. I have kids in 4th, 5th, and 8th grade, and each one of them has access to trails at their skill levels and opportunities to improve to more challenging trails. I wish I had this as a kid!"

At Sunday's event, middle school students will race laps around Sycamore Loop, a 1.2-mile trail that meanders through two valleys and is home to some of the largest trees on the preserve. High school students will climb 1.6 miles up Red Bud Crest and descend for a mile on the curves and berms of Floyd Fox. The high school loop contains the largest climb and fastest downhill in the competition circuit, making Baker Creek Preserve an exciting destination for the students.

Andrew Wagner, a board member for the Tennessee League of NICA explains the collaboration it takes to put on an event like this in the Urban Wilderness. "Legacy Parks Foundation, the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, and Visit Knoxville are so helpful in supporting the NICA program and this event, said Wagner. "We all work well together, which is why these events turn out so well for our community."

After the race on Sunday, Baker Creek Preserve will reopen to the public and Harper's Bike Shop will host a Santa Cruz mountain bike demo from 3 to 7 p.m. Students, parents, and community members are welcome to test out new mountain bikes and experience the Baker Creek trails during this time.