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Thank You from the Director
Not only has 2010 finished off on a high note with the conclusion of three separate League seasons in California and Colorado, it’s also ushered in three new Leagues in Washington, Texas and Minnesota.

One aspect of my job as NICA director is working closely with league directors, and the passion I see played out with Vanessa Hauswald, Matt Gunnell, Kate Rau, Vance McMurry, Lisa Miller and Gary Sjoquist is the fuel I need to go the extra mile each week. Reaching our stated goal of coast-to-coast leagues by 2020 is only possible through the hard work and extra effort displayed by our coaches, volunteers, parents, and sponsors. It’s because of you that I give thanks on this special day. Hope you all enjoy a Turkey Day ride!

Matt Fritzinger

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Giving Thanks

It’s been an incredible year of growth for NICA, and a busy one for the board of directors! Establishing our 501(c)3 status, developing by-laws, staying on top of the growth while focusing on the Mission and Vision are just a few things accomplished in 2010. A special thanks to acting board president Ben Capron, secretary Trevor Thorpe, treasurer Tom Zirbes, Forrest Arakawa, Gary Boulanger, David Curtis, Sara Ecclesine, Gary Fisher, Mary Monroe, Eric Russell, Kozo Shimano, David Wiens, plus Charles Moore, R. Scott Tedro, Tom Ritchey, Jeremy Wagner, Scott M. Berning, Michael Cruz, Lauren Haughey, Nat and Rachael Lopes, Lee McCormack, Paul Skilbeck, Rick Spittler, Austin McInerny, Mark Kintz, Marty Dare, Chris Spencer, and Tim Darwick for their valuable contributions.

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NorCal and SoCal CycleFest Dinners Raise Excitement, Funding

Recently, both the NorCal and SoCal Leagues held their annual CycleFest dinners to celebrate high school mountain biking, raise awareness of the dynamic programs touching more than 700 California student athletes, and raise funding for a successful 2011 racing season.

Two-time mountain bike Olympian Mary McConneloug and her husband Mike Broderick were the guest speakers at the Nov. 6 NorCal dinner in Mill Valley, which raised $75,000! Team RadioShack’s Chris Horner shared stories of life as a professional road racer during the Nov. 20 SoCal dinner on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Horner was the top American in the 2010 Tour de France (10th), and is always a crowd favorite. By the end of the evening, the SoCal League raised $37,000, several thousand reasons to give thanks in California alone! NorCal athletes Laura Leach and John Morehouse and SoCal athletes Caitlin Worthington and Eddy Kronfli told their respective audiences about the positive effect NICA mountain biking has had in their lives.

“It was nice having a contingent from Kern County (Bakersfield) there as this season will mark the first ever club from Kern County,” SoCal League director Matt Gunnell said. “We think there should be strong growth there as the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada mountains is in Kern and we will be having our first race in Kern County on portions of the historic Keysville Classic course on March 27.”

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NICA Awards Dinner January 8, 2011

The first annual NICA Awards Banquet, an event to recognize and celebrate NICA's outstanding student athletes, dedicated coaches, staff and passionate volunteer community, will be at the new Clif Bar & Co. headquarters in Emeryville, CA on Saturday, January 8, 2011. Hosted by Mountain Bike Hall of Famer and adventure rider Hans Rey, who will share the story of his amazing career traveling the globe, promoting the sport of cycling and touching millions of lives along the way since his days as a trials rider in Austria.

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Spotlight on Laramie 7220 Athlete Jencee Reardon

Laramie 7220 Composite Team’s Jencee Reardon finished seventh overall in the Colorado League’s JV Girl’s division, a notable result for a brand-new cyclist and athlete. Her older sister Jacque Vineyard and her husband Gus have plenty to do with getting Jencee off the couch and on the trail.

In July 2010, Jencee moved in with the Vineyards, with plans to finish her last two years of high school in Laramie. Like many teens, Jencee wasn’t motivated enough for outdoor activity, but the active lifestyle of her older sister and brother-in-law was contagious enough for the high school junior.

“A few years ago I didn't picture myself as an athlete at all, especially not a mountain biker,” Jencee said. “I was more of an intellectual than an active person. But living with my sister and brother-in-law has changed that. I've found that you can be both smart and active and afterwards you feel more accomplished for whatever it was you've completed.”

Mountain biking was already a part of the Vineyard household, with Jacque and Gus both participating in a local summer racing series.

“We asked Jencee if she wanted to try a race with us,” Jacque said. “She agreed. I guess you could say the rest is history...but, she struggled. The first race was difficult for her. She has worked very hard to get into shape and that has been very important. After that first race, she just kept going back. She never gave up. She was competing in those races on my old mountain bike, one I bought nearly 10 years ago. I told her that if she participated in the Colorado League that she could ride my Specialized Stumpjumper. That made a big difference for her.”

For Jencee, the highlight of her racing season was played out by the support she and the other students received cross the board.

“I loved how mountain biking wasn't as competitive as other sports,” she said. “Everybody from every team was welcoming and super fun to hang out with. Nobody was left out and everybody was given the same amount of support. I thought it was a real bummer that more girls didn't race this season, and that there weren't more races.”

According to Jacque, Jencee would like to wear the leader's jersey next year.

“She knows that means she’ll have to work very hard in the off season,” she said. “At the invitation of some of her biking teammates, she joined the high school nordic ski team. She also runs and lifts with me once or twice a week (when she isn't skiing). That should help her momentum.

“I’m eleven years older than Jencee,” Jacque added. “She’s been a big part of my life. I remember how excited I was the day she was born. I’m thankful that despite our age difference, that we have remained close; I’m thankful that we share many of the same hobbies and interests. We have the same sense of humor, so we spend a lot of time laughing. I’m thankful that she’s here in Laramie. She makes me proud!”

What advice does Jencee have for other girls who might be unsure if high school mountain biking is for them?

“Do it!” she said. “The League puts so much work trying to put these races together and it would be a shame if there weren't more girls at them to support the program. A lot of girls say that they don't want to do mountain biking in the first place be because they don't want their butts to look big in the spandex. Well, my advice to them is to get out there and try it and not worry so much about how their butt looks; it'll look great by the end of the season.

“I'm also most thankful for all the people, who aren't my family, that support me and this unique sport. I've had so many opportunities since coming to Laramie and the people that have helped me, both academically and recreationally, have been amazingly helpful and supportive. So many people who haven't met me have supported me in all aspects of my new life here in Laramie. My sister is also a really big factor in all that I do. If she says I can do it, then I do it.”

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Mental Skills for Student Athletes

By Marvin Zauderer, NICA Sports Psychologist
Both on dirt and on the road, teen cycling is taking off. And that creates an opportunity for you: Coaching teens is a powerful, fun, and inspiring way to give back to the sport and make a difference in young riders’ lives.

Why work with teens specifically on mental skills? Helping teens with the physical aspects of training and competition is challenging enough, what with their busy schedules, rampaging hormones, and occasional – shall we say – attitude. When it comes to the mental side of sport, though, teens are a unique group: poised precariously between childhood and young adulthood, they still have vestiges, at least, of beginner’s mind. And they’re also developing the strength, and the obstacles, of the adult identity. Cultivating beginner’s mind and using mental skills to return to it: At all levels of sport, and for all ages, it is so often mental fitness that sets athletes apart.

Most importantly, the mental skills young men and women can learn in cycling – including the core skills of Goal-Setting, Communication, Concentration, Effective Self-Talk, and Managing Emotions – are skills they can use throughout their lives. As coaches of teen athletes, we can help equip them for success not only in cycling, but also in their journey through adolescence to adulthood and beyond. And for you, teaching can be a good way to deepen your self-awareness and improve your own mental skills. Remember the Latin proverb: “By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn.”

Click here for the complete column from Marvin.

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Quick Spin with GU Energy Labs President Brian Vaughan

GU Energy Labs president Brian Vaughan is a native Californian, and a longtime endurance athlete. Beginning with cross country running at Berkeley High, Vaughan, 43 now oversees a company whose products fuel endurance athletes in nearly every sport, including high school mountain biking.

How long have you been with GU Energy Labs? What's your educational background?
It’s been 15 years now—I joined the company in the fall of 1995, a little more than a year after GU Energy Gel was first formulated. We had just finished launching the product in the Western market, and were about to go national. Those early days were exciting and challenging because the concept of an energy gel was completely foreign to most athletes. We worked closely with endurance runners and cyclists as test pilots, and learned a ton about what they needed in a sports nutrition product. They were looking for a fuel that was quick to act, easy on the stomach, and would keep them going for hours.

Thinking I needed a counter-balance to my laid back California upbringing, I went to a small liberal arts school in upstate New York and received a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a minor in economics. Looking back at my experience, Hamilton College taught me to work outside of my comfort zone and stretch my understanding of things around me. It was also a great launching pad to the Adirondacks and the rolling hills of New England.

What's a typical day like for you?
Unpredictable. Just when I think I have things figured out, something new presents itself. A business our size needs to stay nimble and look for new opportunities in the marketplace. Over the past two years we’ve expanded our product offerings to include GU Roctane, GU Chomps, and GU Brew, which means that we now have a regular and a high-performance energy gel, an energy chew, and recovery and electrolyte beverages.

What keeps you motivated to support cycling, especially high school mountain biking?
Cycling is one of the most effective ways to get around. You look at many European cities and they’ve got it figured out—the culture celebrates the bike. I grew up riding my bike to get to places I wanted to go, so it feels natural to encourage all aspects of cycling—youth development, recreation, transportation, racing, you name it. When you see the incredible progress the bike community has made in the last 5 years it’s easy to keep motivated.

Supporting NICA and the state leagues has been an unbelievable experience. Everyone you meet who’s a part of the program is amazing, and the kids are so passionate. In my view, cycling is a lifelong sport and a key component that was missing was interscholastic cycling at the high school level. Kids are going through so many physical and emotional changes during these high school years and the Leagues serve as a foundation for building fitness, self esteem, personal identity, a sense of commitment and camaraderie.

Where and when did you take your first mountain bike ride? What do you recall from that ride?
My first experience with mountain biking was around Schoolhouse Brook Park, a few miles outside of Storrs, Connecticut in 1992, and a good friend was in graduate school at the University of Connecticut. I remember how hard it was to ride in the mud and over slick roots; you had to rely on your fitness and riding style to clear the technical sections on the trail.

Before we hit the single track I thought, ‘no problem, I grew up in California where they have mountains; I should be able to do this’. Well, it was harder than anything I could comprehend. I was completely wiped out for days afterward. Now that I’m a seasoned rider with a ton of base mileage, I have a fonder memory of that first ride.

Describe the best mountain bike ride you've had recently, and who was with you.
I’m not sure that I can limit this to just one ride. It is probably better summed up as an overall experience comprised of a number of events. At the beginning of July I had the opportunity to visit Chris Carmichael in Colorado Springs for a 4-day training camp in preparation for the La Ruta mountain bike race this month in Costa Rica. Each day the group rode for about 5 hours—the trails were remarkable, remote and unending. I knew going into this camp that my season was potentially compromised because of an injury I sustained 4 weeks earlier.

Unfortunately, I further aggravated the pinched nerve in my shoulder and have been restricted from riding my mountain bike since that trip to Colorado. It was a struggle for me - to go from the intense riding that I was passionate for, to being entirely limited on all physical activity.

Recently though, I’ve gotten back on my bike, but this time on a tandem with my son, Elliot. We’re gradually building up mileage and hope to ride a century together this coming spring. Training in Colorado, my injury over the summer and my first ride with my son this fall have all collectively added a new intensity to my passion for the sport. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to involve my kids in the sport I love most.

Becoming a NICA Trailblazer

Managing the growth and supporting infrastructure of high school mountain biking takes time, talent and resources. Your financial commitment is an essential part of NICA’s efforts! Read more about becoming a NICA Trailblazer here.

Calendar

Jan. 8 NICA Awards Dinner in Emeryville, CA
Jan. 22-23 Washington Leader’s Summit
Feb. 27 NorCal League Prologue
Mar. 6 SoCal League Opener
April 3 Washington League Race #1
May 1 Washington League Race #2
May 15 CA State Championship in Los Olivos
Jun 30 2012 League bids due

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