NICA NEWS 2/23/11

February 23, 2011

Director’s Note

The eleventh season of high school mountain biking is upon us. The opening races will start on a historic day with two races at two different venues for the NorCal League this Sunday. The SoCal League, now entering its third season, will have it’s first race next Sunday, while the Washington League, in its inaugural year, has its opener on April 3.

If you haven’t yet been to a high school race, we encourage our supporters, potential league founders, and true cycling fans to check one out this year. Here’s a special preview shot from the 2010 NorCal season opener. Let us know if you’d like to get involved!

Happy Trails,

Matt Fritzinger

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Humberto Solorzano races for the Channel Islands Mountain Bike Team.

Student Spotlight on Humberto Solorzano

How did you first hear about high school mountain biking?
It was during our school’s morning announcements. It immediately grabbed my attention when I first heard that our school would have the first mountain bike team in the district.

Had you done mountain biking before the SoCal League?
Before the SoCal League I had never done any mountain biking at all. I had previously heard of the sport but I did not have a clear understanding of what it was all about. When I heard that my school was forming a mountain bike team, I decided to give it a try and I immediately liked it since the first day of practice.

Can you see yourself getting into other types of cycling, such as road bikes, commuter/transport bikes?
I’ve been mountain biking for three years now, and I’ve really enjoyed it. Although mountain biking is the only cycling I do right now, in the near future I do see myself getting more involved with other types of cycling.

Did you have to give up anything to make room for cycling in your schedule?
Yes. When we commenced our mountain biking practices after school, I had to give up several hours of community service volunteering at my local public library. Then on the weekends I would have to push my household chores until the afternoon when I returned from morning practice rides.

What’s the best thing for you about being a high school mountain biker?
For me, the best thing is that while out on the trails I can relieve the stress that comes from all my challenging AP classes at school. Furthermore, I get to compete with other high school mountain bikers from across southern California.

What advice would you have for students who have friends who are unsure about joining a school mountain bike team?
I would advise students who are unsure about joining a school mountain bike team to at least give it a try. It is a great sport that anyone can do and the best part of it is enjoying the outdoors and the great scenery.

What do you think needs to happen to get more schools involved?
For more schools to get involved, I believe we need to spread the word about mountain biking to high school students. Many students may not know what mountain biking really is. If they knew how much fun it is, they will most likely be willing to give it a try and more schools would get involved.

Quick Spin with Rick Spittler, Incoming NICA President


How did you first find out about high school mountain biking?
I was introduced to high school mountain biking by my daughter, Elena Spittler in the fall of 2002. Her high school math teacher, Matt Fritzinger, had started the NorCal League and he encouraged her to join the Berkeley High Team. Elena joined the team and raced in the 2003, 2004 and 2005 race season, winning the 2005 Varsity Girls Championship. As a family we rode bikes on a recreational basis, however competitive mountain bike racing was completely new to us.

The experience of my daughter participating in the NorCal League was an overwhelmingly positive experience for my daughter as well as for the rest of the family.

How does cycling feature in your life: past, present and future?
As an infant in 1954, I was stricken with Polio. The virus caused paralysis in my left leg, leaving me with little muscle function in that leg. Consequently, walking has always been a difficult task for me. Early on as a child, I learned how to ride a bike and quickly the bicycle became my “legs”.

I continue to ride bicycles today. For my entire 35-year career I have commuted to work by bicycle. I run my errands riding a bike. I also cycle for recreation, both mountain biking and road biking. This past fall my wife and I took two months and traveled through France and Italy traveling by bike and trains.

Cycling is an activity that can accommodate people with a wide variety of physical needs and abilities. It is also an activity that can be enjoyed as one ages. As I age, and at some point no longer able to drive a car, I will be on a bike, whether two wheeled or three and again the bicycle will provide me with the freedom it did when I was a child.

Generally speaking, looking at the way they are managed, what is your range of experience with national sporting governing bodies?
NICA was formed to build High School Mountain Bike Leagues throughout the country, to support the Leagues and to act as the national governing body for high school mountain biking. By creating NICA from the ground up, we have the opportunity to create a national youth sports organization that is structurally organized to be responsive and supportive to the Chapter Leagues, individual teams and to the student athletes participating in our programs.

What ever we are discussing, it always goes back to “how is this helping the student athletes in our program?”

When developing the organizational structure for NICA, we intentionally are looking at what functions are more efficiently done at the national, regional and team level. For example NICA handles, creation and implementation of nationwide standards in coach training, event management, sponsorship and other fundraising work, external communications, risk management and insurance, a set of rules specially designed and developed for student athletes, and group purchases, making it easier and less costly for the individual leagues to run a race series. Every aspect of NICA, the Chapter Leagues and local teams are designed to support each other and leverage our resources.

Additionally, NICA has developed an organizational culture of heighten expectations and always working to create the best product and service. By staying focused on the Student Athlete and remaining true to our values, NICA can have a major impact on our student athletes as well as cycling.

What is it like working with Matt Fritzinger and the NICA staff?
I have had the pleasure of working with Matt over the past 10 years as an advisor to NorCal and now with NICA. Matt is an intelligent, engaging and inspiring leader that cares deeply for the health and well being of the young student athletes in our programs. This is evident almost every day when Matt asked this question, “How will this decision effect our Student Athletes?”

We are lucky to have the NICA staff that we have working on our goals. They are smart, innovative and energetic. They all love cycling and are great ambassadors for NICA, the Leagues and the sport of cycling.

NICA is one component of cycling development in the USA. What is the importance of NICA in this picture and where do you see it fitting in with the mix of say, IMBA, USA Cycling, organizations like those?
NICA’s focus is on youth. Period. Other national organizations may have a youth component to their programs, but youth is not their focus. At NICA it is ALL about the youth, our student athletes. As a national organization that focuses on youth, together with NICA’s goal of bringing high school mountain biking coast to coast by 2020, NICA can have a major impact on cycling.

As a national organization, NICA also will be building collaborations and partnerships with other national groups that have a shared interest. NICA can also help foster partnerships with regional and local organizations through the Chapter Leagues and local teams.

The whole concept of NICA is to work together with the Chapter Leagues, the local teams and the corresponding national, regional and local organizations, businesses, government agencies and schools.

What do you hope will happen to the relationship with school authorities as NICA grows?
As more and more schools participate in NICA, and as more and more school administrators see the benefit of their students participating in high school mountain biking, it is our hope that one day mountain biking will be as common in high schools as any of the other sports.

Why are so many big cycling companies coming in to sponsor NICA? Where does the money come from over the next 10 years and more?
The development of high school mountain biking on a national level is one of the most exciting things to happen in the cycling industry. As a result of the way we have structured NICA, high school mountain biking is an incredibly accessible way for many students to be introduced to the sport of cycling. After participating in high school mountain biking, we have seen our graduates go on to compete on their college teams, both mountain and road. Additionally, our student athletes are being introduced to a sport and activity that they can pursue for the rest of their lives. In short, it makes good business sense for the cycling industry to support NICA.

Additionally, the cycling industry is made of great people that love cycling. Better than anyone else, they know first hand the excitement, joy and thrill of riding and competing on a bike. These individuals share our enthusiasm and love for cycling and they are genuine in their desire to help us succeed.

NICA’s business plan is based on developing a diverse base of income streams. This includes, corporate sponsors – inside and outside of the cycling industry, program fees, individual donors and grants. Just as NICA’s organizational structure leverages the resources of the national office, regional leagues and the local teams, our fundraising strategy is developing the same efficiencies and collaborations. Marketing materials, a sophisticated donor database, sponsor packets etc, all can be produced at the national office. This saves the leagues’ resources and can produce higher quality products than an individual league could afford.

We are creating an organizational structure that is based on collaboration, responsiveness, excellence and leveraging resources.

The cycling industry should feel proud of what we have accomplished together. We have started to lay the ground-work that will introduce the joy of cycling to thousands of youth and families each year.


Team Talk with Ed Fischer, Washington League

Bike store owner Ed Fischer decided a high school mountain bike team would be good for his area, so he attended the Washington Leaders’ Summit with Will Cortez in January ’11, and within a month had assembled a team which expects to start the series with approx. 15 students and about 10 adult team assistants.

Tell us the highlights of your cycling history.
I didn’t really start riding until I finished high school 25 years ago. I was in Southern California near the Santa Monica Mountains, and so did a lot of mountain biking there. About 10 years ago I got into road riding in the Tahoe/Reno area, which is great also, but mountain biking has been my enduring passion. I definitely would have liked something like a high school mountain biking program when I was in school. I wasn’t that social or athletic then and I think it could have helped in that way.

How’s the cycling scene in your area?
There’s an incredible passion for mountain biking here in the northwest, but when you get past the racers, there are not as many women or kids in the sport as there could be, and I personally want to see more kids on bikes than playing video games or in front of the TV, so I’ve been working at getting more women and kids into the sport.

What’s your day job?
I own a bike shop in Camas, Washington, that we opened almost 2 years ago. When we moved here 3 years ago, we noticed a lack of bike shops in the area, but we saw a lot of pretty serious riders and racers around here. We felt the community needed a shop regardless, so I quit my job working for the City of Portland, and with the help of my wife Katina, we opened Camas Bike and Sport. When I heard about the Washington League starting, I felt the shop was a great resource and tool to help catapult a team, so I really felt like this was my calling to get involved, as we have a tight knit group of generous riding friends and I knew we could get the needed support to help guide a team.

How did you hear about the Washington League and how did the team come together?
I’m a Specialized dealer and I think I first heard about the Association through the Alliance newsletter. Then last year I met Matt Fritzinger at Sea Otter and saw a Washington logo in the NICA booth, so I asked about it and he told me they’re setting up a league in Washington. So I got on (Washington League director) Lisa Miller’s email list and went to the Leader’s Summit earlier this year.
It was an effort to go there, and if not for Will Cortez, who wants to have a league where he lives in Oregon, I might not have gone.

That was only about a month ago, but things happened very quickly. Will Cortez helped a lot in getting it off the ground, and I am in contact with a really great network of people I’ve met through the shop. We got in touch with a teacher, Eric Albers, and his friend Dara Hartman who was already running a mountain biking group, so he brought about eight students to the team immediately. A lot of people got involved. Some are adults who don’t even have kids in school, they just think the team’s a good idea. I feel like I was just the catalyst, the one who brought the idea of the team here to the area.

We have not yet had sufficient time to meet with schools and properly introduce them to the idea of a school mountain bike team, so we’re staring with a composite team. We have students from four schools, and two are home-schooled. This year we will put together a video and a slide show, a budget as well, get some testimonials from the students, and make a thorough presentation for next year so schools, students and parents will know what to expect. It will take a couple of years for schools to really embrace this.

We have had our first team meeting already. We have our first team ride today. We just got students properly signed up, got waivers signed, and we have made sure all the bikes are checked and sound to ride.

How much time is it taking to manage the school team and how do you find this time?
We’re talking about that now. I am rapidly delegating duties and responsibilities, including Dave Webb taking on the Head Coach position and a bunch of assistant coaches. I will continue as team director and assistant coach and see how that works out. If you build something that’s genuine, it will grow on its own.

NICA Store

NICA Jerseys are a great compliment to any League or team apparel. Jerseys are in stock now at the NICA Store.

Check back soon for new products like NICA Caps, NICA arm warmers and NICA leg warmers.


§  Feb. 27 North-NorCal Prologue, Granite Bay, CA

§  Feb. 27 South-NorCal Prologue, East Garrison/Fort Ord (near Monterey, CA)

§  Mar. 6 SoCal Race #1 – Vail Lake Challenge at Vail Lake, Temecula

§  Mar. 13 NorCal Race #1 – Granite Bay Challenge, Granite Bay CA

§  Mar. 18 Washington League movie screening – “Life Cycles” (Seattle, WA @ REI Flagship Store)

§  Mar. 27 NorCal Race #2 – TBD (near Monterey, CA)

§  Mar. 27 SoCal Race #2 – Cruise the Keys at Keysville, Lake Isabella

§  Apr. 3 Washington League Race #1

§  Apr. 10 SoCal Race #3 – Power the Pinnacles at Lake Arrowhead

§  Apr. 10 NorCal Race #3 – Central Coast Invitational, East Garrison (near Monterey)

§  Apr. 14-17 Sea Otter Classic, Monterey, CA

§  May 1 NorCal Race #4 – Boggs Mountain Classic, near Cobb, CA

§  May 1 SoCal Finals at Vail Lake, Temecula

§  May 1 Washington League Race #2

§  May 1 Colorado League Leaders’ Summit

§  May 14 Colorado League CycleFest Dinner and Silent Auction

§  Mat 15 Colorado League “Ride To Eat, Eat To Ride”

§  May 15 CA State Championships at Los Olivos

§  June 30 2012 League bids due

About the author: Gregg Kato

Gregg Kato studied journalism and broadcasting in college while working many different jobs including deejaying, driving a forklift and building web sites (not all at the same time). Kato enjoys riding local Santa Cruz trails. Besides being an avid mountain biker, he is also a motorcycle fanatic. Two wheels, one Passion.

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