NICA hit full stride in March with all programs continuing to expand. Three current and past NICA student-athletes have been selected for the US national team to contest the Pan Am Continental Mountain Bike Championships in Tucuman, Argentina on April 4-7. These cross country riders are Shayna Powless (U23 women), Lucas Newcomb (junior men) and Kate Courtney (junior women).
Great news came at the end of the month: NICA sponsor Trek announced it has extended its retailer-sponsored athlete program to all NICA student-athletes who are currently enrolled in a league. "Supporting NICA is supporting the future of US mountain biking," said Trek's director of advocacy, Brandon Buth.
In Texas, the spring racing series started. With the two California leagues already in progress, NICA now has three spring leagues under way and the New York league will hold its inaugural race April 28th at Sprain Ridge Park, Yonkers.
NICA's coach training had a busy month with Leaders' Summits taking place in Utah and Arizona. Forty-four coaches, including 38 newly qualified attended the Utah event. In Arizona, 23 new coaches attended the training in Tempe, March 23-24, and another is slated for Prescott on April 13-14. Minnesota, Colorado, and Tennessee leagues are preparing for their Leaders' Summits.
In support of all this coach training, the third edition of the NICA Coaches Manual went into circulation during March, with a new "Nutrition and Hydration" chapter written in collaboration with Gu Energy.
On the subject of training, race management training continues, with experienced race staff demonstrating the NICA process to those in new leagues. Representatives of the Tennessee League shadowed and assisted the Texas League staff over a weekend at a race in March and Arizona League staff will visit California for training in April.
The Minnesota League launched "Crank Sisters" an initiative to attract more female participation. The aim is to double the current rate of 25 percent. "We are watching and supporting this effort and believe it will provide a model for other leagues to follow," said Lauren Duensing, NICA's Director of Operations. The Crank Sisters summit day is April 20.
The long-awaited NICA documentary, Singletrack High started its national tour after a sell-out launch in Mill Valley, California in early February. Funded by Specialized Bicycle Components and produced and directed by the Siegel-Boettner brothers, the film has been well received at venues all over the USA during its 10 screenings in March, and according to media reports, cyclists across the country are talking about it.
On April 20, the film will screen at the Golden State Theater in Monterey during the Volkswagen Sea Otter Classic. Cyclists at Laguna Seca are encouraged to attend this screening, and while onsite at Laguna Seca to visit the large NICA booth, which has moved from its corner spot of past years to a new position beside the Luna Chix Team area.
Mountain biking superstar Ned Overend will be the special guest at Utah's upcoming Cyclefest May 11. "We are really excited to have Ned, and it's going to be a very well attended event, but if anybody out there can help organize it, let me know - I could use the help!" said Utah League director Lori Harward.
Finally, NICA is continuing to expand the number of leagues. "We've got a lot of interest again, currently we are expecting bids from five leagues looking to join NICA," said executive director Austin McInerny. Bids are due May 1st.
Meet the Athlete: DeShaun Smith
The NICA awards recognize individuals that have made an outstanding contribution in some way to the NICA mission. The Jeep Extraordinary Courage award is for a NICA student-athlete who has persevered through challenging circumstances and has overcome considerable adversity to develop and excel as a model student-athlete
DeShaun Smith was nominated by his team, which is run by the Sacramento Police Department. The nomination letter read as follows: DeShaun has cerebral palsy, but never complains about anything, and wants to be treated like everyone else on the team. He gives his absolute best every time he is on a bicycle and is an inspiration to all around him. During a training ride in his freshman year, DeShawn told us that his legs had been in casts until he was 12 years old, but he did not want special accommodations. In fact said he wanted to be treated like everyone else. Team staff say DeShaun is the toughest rider they have seen to date. His tenacity is apparent when you meet him, and his attitude inspires others to stay in the race and never quit.
DeShaun Smith races for the Sacramento Police Department / Luther Burbank High School Mountain Biking Team, Sacramento, California.
Year of birth: 1995
Best league result: "I am not sure. They are all good."
Biggest league achievement: "My NICA award"
Cyclingnews: Do you race for other teams/clubs outside the league?
DeShaun Smith: No
CN: What is the name of your league coach?
DS: Jesus Trejo
CN: How long have you been a competitive athlete?
DS: Three years
CN: What other sports have you done/still participate in?
DS: When I was younger I played basket ball.
CN: How does high school mountain bike racing compare to other sports and sports events?
DS: I like mountain biking more because it’s fun competing with my friends to see who can do better, and I get to meet some great people every year. Also it helps build my weaker leg muscles.
CN: How long have you been racing in the NorCal League, and how did you first hear about it?
DS: I heard about it from a friend. This is my third year racing.
CN: What do you think of mountain biking as a sport for female and or male high school students? What is good/not so good?
DS: It is a good sport for both genders because girls who love a heart-pounding rush and like some competition can get it from mountain biking, and guys who love racing but want to ride through steep hills and trails and go as fast as they can will enjoy mountain biking. The only thing I would think isn’t so good is the hard crashes that need medical attention, but besides that i think its a great sport that everyone can enjoy.
CN: What is the biggest challenge for you in high school mountain bike racing?
DS: Long steep uphills, especially when I'm worn out.
CN: What would you like to achieve in mountain bike racing?
DS: I would like help people recognize that even if you have a disability you can still do what everyone else can and achieve as much as them.
CN: Overall how has high school mountain bike racing impacted your day-to-day life?
DS: It has made me happier and more active .