Ten years after high school students in Northern California started to race their mountain bikes against other schools, the competition is poised to go national.
At Interbike in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Matthew Fritzinger, founder of the NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing Leauge, announced the launch of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. The formation of NICA follows the first year of the NorCal League spin-off, the SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League.
The NICA, which will be headed by Fritzinger, is set to start Oct. 1 with four state or regional chapters. The initial states and regions are Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, and Washington. By 2020, NICA’s vision is to have developed high school mountain biking coast to coast. To get there, NICA is being funded by Specialized Bicycle Components and the Easton Sports Development Foundation II.
“I think [high school mountain biking] is set to explode,” Mike Sinyard, founder and chairman of Specialized, said after the NICA announcement at Interbike. “Kids today are more into individualized sports compared to the three big ball sports. It’s easier to start an individual sport and there’s more self-expression.”
Fritzinger started the NorCal High School Mountain Bike Series in 2001 as a teacher at Berkeley High School in California. He said NICA is looking for two or three more major corporate partners and individual supporters to join what is being called the “Trailblazers Team.” Early members of the group include Charles Moore of McGuire Real Estate and Scott Tedro of Sho-Air International, which was the primary sponsor of the 2009 Pro Cross Country Tour in North America.
“This is a tremendously exciting step not only for us, but for mountain biking in the USA,” Fritzinger said. “Our mountain biking programs provide a range of positive experience for teenage kids, many of which would not have come to the sport if it were not for their high school team.”
Sinyard acknowledged the obvious benefits for his company of getting more riders on bikes. But he said Specialized’s efforts have other benefits, from health and fitness to teamwork all the way to perhaps launching the next world champion of mountain biking, which has been dominated by Europeans for years.
“Cycling can be fun for those who choose it,” Sinyard said. “And it can definitely by an entrée. For someone to be good you have to do that thing a lot.”
For more information, go to www.nationalmtb.org.