Washington, Minnesota and Texas are the newest states to join the National Interscholastic Cycling Association, which has a goal of getting high school mountain bike leagues established across the country by 2020.
The new leagues join the founding Northern California league and a Southern California league. Colorado just started its fist season this month with 144 student racers.
“Our goal is to provide coast-to-coast mountain biking for student athletes by 2020,” said Ben Capron of Specialized Bicycle Components and acting president of NICA. “We are now ahead of the curve with this goal.”
The Texas High School Cycling League is aiming to register 200 riders in its first year, said Vance McMurry, founding chairman of the Texas effort. With a population of 1.1 million high school students within a 4.5 hour drive encompassing Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, he said he thinks the goal is a feasible target. Texas schools will begin competition in fall of 2011.
Racing for Washington schools will begin in spring 2011, beginning in the six counties comprising and surrounding the Seattle metro area, according to Lisa Miller, founding chair of the Washington High School Cycling League.
Minnesota enters as an Emerging League and is in its early develoment stages. Its focus will be on the Twin Cities area where there are 76 schools and 125,000 secondary school students, said Gary Sjoquist, a former teacher who now works for Quality Bicycle Products.
“I’m determined that this not be a bike culture thing; we’re going to spread it out into the larger community,” Sjoquist said.
While some states have had mountain biking programs in place, NICA provides a template that includes league support on fundraising, websites, coaching and administration. Gary Boulanger, NICA league developer, said one of the goals of the organization is a national championship to tie efforts together, but not at the expense of fun.
“We want to encourage everbody,” he said. “Not just the cream of the crop.”
Capron noted that the NorCal league has 600 students racing mountain bikes and that 100 percent of high schools in Marin County field teams.
“We’re talking about high school, where there are more students involved in cycling than other sports,” Capron said.