Cycling conglomerates SRAM and Trek Bicycle Corporation recently signed a three-year deal to support the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) and its mission to expand nationwide by 2020.
The additional funding will help NICA provide services and programs from hands-on League building to coaches curriculum and license programs, says Executive Director Matt Fritzinger.
“NICA is an outgrowth of the NorCal League, but the NorCal League was in no position to fund such an ambitious start-up,” Fritzinger said. “We are working hard to get a lot of systems in place and couldn't be doing it without the support of SRAM as well as our other establishing partners like Easton, Clif Bar and our Founding National Sponsor, Specialized.”
Fritzinger founded the NorCal High School Mountain Bike League in 2001. In 2008, Matt Gunnell founded the SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League. This year, the NorCal and SoCal Leagues are expected to encompass 50 high school programs and have 1000 registered high school racers.
The NICA’s newest financial supporter, SRAM will also provide neutral support for all the league races. “This is a big investment for SRAM over the next three years,” said John Dawson, SRAM North American race/event director. “Money, equipment to help with fundraising, and most of all — time. This is a big company-wide investment, which has got to succeed for future mountain bikers and the industry as a whole.”
Trek Bicycles Corp. and Gary Fisher have supported the NorCal League since its inception with the Gary Fisher brand and have extended its support for an additional three years.
“We love the idea of teaching high school kids the idea of life sports — sports that do not end when high school is over but can continue for a lifetime,” said Dean Gore, Trek Bicycles Director of Marketing.
“For many reasons, we think the NICA has a very bright future,” he continued. “We believe this is a great opportunity for parents to discover cycling as a sport that they can enjoy with their kids, a chance to do a sport together. Next, it is inclusive. You don’t get cut from the mountain bike team, everyone gets to ride and everyone races. Last, it has all the fun that will keep kids interested because it’s challenging, fast, exciting, away from school and always an adventure.”
Fritzinger went on to found the NICA in September of 2008, which is based in Berkeley, California and serves to support the high school mountain bike leagues nation-wide.
“After meeting with Matt Fritzinger and the NICA staff at Interbike, I was completely impressed with their passion for leagues success and really felt these were the people who could bring to life a national high school racing series,” Dawson said. “Furthermore, with the decline of national racing as a whole we felt is was time to focus on the grassroots segment and what better place. The timing was just right.
Colorado is the newest State to join the NICA recently creating its own league. The Colorado High School Racing League is scheduled to launch in September. Potential up and coming leagues include North Carolina, Wisconsin, Oregon, Washington, New York and Maine.
“The Colorado League is right on track, with quite a large following,” Fritzinger said. “There are dozens of teachers, parents and coaches working on building teams for the first race series which will be held in September and October. It would be a huge success with a dozen teams and 100 kids at the first race and that is looking very possible.”
Fritzinger encourages all potential coaches, assistant coaches and ride leaders to attend the NICA coaching conference this June 5-6 (tentative), to learn the best practices of youth mountain bike coaching. The conference location is to be announced.
The Colorado Mountain Bike League will host its inaugural CycleFest fundraiser in Denver on May 1. Dave Wiens and Susan DeMattei will host the event.
“In addition, Fabbio Flagiello will be hosting a road ride out of Bacaro Restaurant in Boulder, Colorado on May 2,” Fritzinger said. “It's going to be an incredible weekend.”
The NorCal and SoCal Mountain Bike Leagues raised a combined total of $100,000 in their respective CycleFest fundraising dinners in 2009.
“NICA is incorporating as a non-profit organization,” Fritzinger said. “Non-profits are mission-based and the board is responsible for ensuring that mission is carried out. They act as primary advisors and bring much needed resources and know-how where myself, and the rest of staff need it.”
The NICA scheduled its first board meeting this Saturday, headed by the board’s President Gary Boulanger. The eleven other board members include Forrest Arakawa, Ben Capron, David Curtis, Sara Ecclesine, Gary Fisher, Eric Russell, Kozo Shimano, Thorpe Trevor and Dave Wiens.
“Currently, the board is California-centric, but we are looking for board members in target regions like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin,” he added. “Those board members would also act as conduits that help NICA build League's in those states.”