NORTH VASSALBORO — People of all ages and experience levels and from six different states and a Canadian province descended on a beloved landmark and community center in North Vassalboro to continue the effort to help rebuild the facility after it suffered heavy damage in an Oct. 30-31 wind storm.

Around 200 riders took to the 3/4-mile track at The Olde Mill Place in the downtown area Sunday afternoon to raise money to help owner Ray Breton reconstruct the roof. Breton said he’s expecting the total cost of the work to be more than $300,000, so while there is a long way to go, he said it’s great to see so many people supporting the cause.

“I’m overjoyed,” he told the crowd before the race began. “I didn’t expect this.”

Riders paid $20 each and spent two hours weaving their way on bikes — from road bikes and fat-tire bikes to mountain bikes and kids’ bikes — through a two-level, 100,000-square-foot track. There were straightaways, narrow passes, ramps, hills, curves, themed rooms and obstacles constructed with wood donated by Hammond Lumber.

The course was built by David Richard and other members of the Central Maine Cycling Club, which hosted the event. It took about a month to construct the entire layout, which takes riders through offices, warehouse space and other parts of the old mill.

“This was really cool to watch and really cool to see,” said Thomas McGann, who was in one of the areas taped off for spectators to take pictures. “My grandson and father are riding together, so it’s a special moment for our family, and it’s all for a good cause.”

Breton said there have been a number of fundraisers in the area since the late October storm wreaked havoc on the region. The “Save the Mill” campaign has held a Halloween haunted house, barber shop and salon fundraiser and some dinners.

“Because I’m just a private owner, there is no disaster relief from (FEMA),” Breton said. He’s considered taking out a low-interest, 30-year loan to start repairing the more-damaged parts of the structure. There can only be so much tarp and patchwork, Breton said, and tarp isn’t waterproof.

In addition to the entry fee, there was a 50/50 raffle and almost 100 other prize giveaways, with all of the proceeds going to the mill campaign.

While the riders listened to live music downstairs before the race began, a group from Rochester, New Hampshire, talked strategy and about the challenges this type of environment poses to even experienced riders.

Tri-City Bicycles riders Joshua Barber said the narrow parts of the track, especially some of the offices, will make it difficult to pass, and there will be a bottleneck in some spots. His group got to the mill two hours early and spent time practicing on the unfamiliar track.

“All the corners are really tough, and there are some wood features and jumps that’ll be really fun,” Barber said. “There’s no place to pass (in some spots).”

For those who aren’t riding, the organizers installed four cameras throughout the course so people can watch on large screens downstairs. It was another way to get more people involved, Richard said.

Breton bought the mill in 2010 but didn’t insure it because of the high cost. The wind storm ripped off parts of the mill’s roof as large as 150 feet. Rain has continued to seep into the building because the tarps and plaster used to fill holes isn’t enough to keep all the water out.

Without repairs, the mill would have to be shuttered. It is used for a number of community events throughout the year, including a haunted house that had more than 1,200 people last year, the annual Vassalboro Days and the community Christmas tree lighting.

Breton owns many other lots and buildings in the downtown area, and he built a park at the Outlet Stream, turned an empty lot in a public basketball and volleyball courts and installed tether ball courts for children to use.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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