The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) develops high school mountain biking programs for student-athletes across the United States. Formed in 2009, NICA is coming into the 2013 year with robust numbers and broad support from within the bike industry. NICA's coaching license program has grown to nearly 1,000 strong, and NICA anticipates having over 2,500 student-athletes race in one of the nine NICA Leagues. With the addition of the New York League, NICA now has leagues on the west and east coast. The high school mountain biking movement is well under way.
NICA premieres feature documentary film: "Singletrack High"
At the age of 16, many American kids trade in two wheels for four. Trusty steeds that once gave them freedom to explore on weekends now collect dust in the garage. For a growing number of high school students in Northern California, however, two wheels don't get dusty, they get dirty. Their lives continue to revolve around weekend rides, but now those rides have a finish line. These are the student athletes of the NorCal High School Cycling League. This is "Singletrack High".
The film premiered to a sold out audience on February 6 in Mill Valley, California. Singletrack High will be screening all over the USA in 2013 and beyond. Screenings are being hosted by NICA, NICA leagues, NICA teams, and other bike organizations looking to spread the word about high school mountain biking.
For a current list of screenings, click here.
To preview the "Singletrack High" trailer, click here.
Rider camps held in three separate leagues
To get riders ready for the starting line, NICA leagues recently held a variety of rider camps. The NorCal and SoCal Leagues offered both a beginner and intermediate camp to prepare riders for the 2013 spring season. With over 150 participants, the camps were a huge success. The Utah League, to help riders stay fit during the off-season (their race season is not until next fall), hosted a Winter Skills and Riding Camp for 64 participants, 12 of which were parents.
Lori Harward, the Utah League's Director said, "I know we say it all the time, we value camaraderie over competition, but while other sports talk about it - we live it."
All camps are taught by NICA licensed coaches, and often joined by special guest including pro-riders, nutrition specialists and strength trainers. For many of NICA's student-athletes, these camps are the foundation to a successful season and to building a stronger understanding of the fundamentals to riding and bike maintenance.
Three Arizona high school girls ride for a very memorable 24 hours
Celebrating its 14th year of singletrack in the Sonoran Desert at Willow Springs Ranch near Oracle, Arizona, the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo presented by Tucson Medical Center enjoyed sunny skies and record attendance. With 1,857 participants and nearly 4,000 total population in "24 Hour Town", the event remained the largest 24-hour relay mountain bike event in the US.
Thanks to the Arizona High School Cycling League and Sho-Air/Cannondale professional mountain bike team, three lucky Arizona high school girls enjoyed an extra special weekend. Zoe Dunn, Hannah Madler and Daisy Ward were selected to be teammates with seven-time national champion Pua Mata of the Sho-Air/Cannondale team. To get on the team, the girls had to answer some questions: Why should you be selected? What got you into mountain biking? What does mountain biking mean to you?
In addition to her young teammates seeing up close what it takes to race at an elite level, Mata also helped the girls boost their skills, gave them nutrition advice and race prep clinic, and all sorts of merchandise. Huge props to Mata for dedicating her time and effort to youth cycling when she could be gunning for a podium spot for herself. It is an act of generosity that can inspire all ages. Even if her three young teammates never turn pro, Mata's presence at minimum strengthened their love for a healthy, life-long pursuit.
Spring leagues' season openers
Two of the largest NICA leagues will have their season openers Sunday, February 24. The NorCal League, in an effort to accommodate its growth, is splitting into two conferences: a North and a South, producing two races at two separate venues, on the same day. Combined, they are anticipated to reach 600-700 riders, with 53 teams collectively. The split will create smaller fields to allow more room out on the single track for the student-athletes to become comfortable with racing while also allowing for more staff to be trained on how to run an event.
The NorCal League has provided more financial scholarships to student-athletes in need than ever before in the history of the League, haven given close to $15K in scholarships so far this season. The have also added a new venue this season at the Folsom Prison Property in Folsom, California. Working with local race promoter, Brian Joder, riders will enjoy a beautiful course through the foothills that back up to the massive stonewalls of the prison.
NorCal's southern neighbor, the SoCal League, is expecting well over 300 student-athletes at its opening race, which would be the largest SoCal League race ever. SoCal has expanded from 26 teams in 2012 to 36 teams for 2013, and they are already getting interest from people looking to form teams for 2014. SoCal will bring two new venues to their series: Sycamore Canyon in Riverside where the US Cup has raced the last two years, and Lake Perris in Perris California State Park. Part of the course will cross a sandy beach and include cyclo-cross style twists and turns on the grass. Both will make for fantastic spectating and a slightly different style course than riders are used to. This is the season when SoCal will surpass 1,000 unique riders served. By the end of the 2013 season, it is likely over 1,100 riders will have raced in a in a SoCal League race since its first season in Spring of 2009.
NICA upcoming events
February 24: NorCal and SoCal Leagues' Season opener
March 10: Texas League's Season Opener; NorCal and SoCal Leagues' second race
March 16-17: Utah Leagues' Leader Summit
March 23-24: Arizona Leagues' first Leader Summit
March 24: Texas League's second race; NorCal and SoCal Leagues' third race.
For a list of all upcoming NICA events, click here.