By Alan Snel
LAS VEGAS, NV (BRAIN) — NICA is expanding its high school mountain bike racing league into Georgia.
The Peach State joins nine other NICA leagues — Southern California, Northern California, Colorado, Utah, Texas, New York, Minnesota, Arizona and Tennessee. NICA has 3,000 high students and 900 coaches under its program. It puts on about 50 races a year.
About six states inquired about becoming a NICA member during the past year and Georgia was the one that showed it could raise the required $10,000 while also illustrating it had the contacts and resources to launch the program, said Austin McInerny, executive director of Berkeley, Calif.-based NICA.
"Our goal is not to own the leagues, but to create self-sustaining leagues," McInerny said.
NICA also adds $25,000 to the new Georgia league, so there's $35,000 to use as seed money to start a program that is expected to attract about 200 students.
"Georgia was engaged in starting a program. We have honorary board members in Georgia and there was a core group to launch this," McInerny said. "They had (adult) cyclists who were also savvy business people and were connected to advocacy groups."
Dan Brooks, an Atlanta lawyer, is the new executive director of the Georgia program. Brooks said there's great mountain biking in the north section of Georgia in the southern Appalachian region, while there's also a mountain biking venue in the Atlanta area used in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
NICA wants to instill a love for mountain biking, but sometimes the training yields world-class mountain biking cyclists. For example, seven former NICA riders were on the U.S. team for the recent mountain biking world championships in South Africa, McInerney said.
"We don't focus on creating elite athletes. It just happens," he said.