Special gravel coverage

Oregon now has an interscholastic mountain bike racing league

Posted by on December 4th, 2017 at 4:59 pm

It’s official! Love that logo.

Ever wished your child could compete on a cycling team based at their school? Now they can.

Today the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) announced that Oregon is the latest state to join what is already a bustling league with 800 school-based teams, 14,500 student athletes and 6,000 licensed coaches nationwide. NICA is a nonprofit founded in 2009 with a mission to use cycling as a way to foster a healthy lifestyle for young people in 6th through 12th grades. States with existings programs include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Northern California, Pennsylvania, Southern California, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Heather Wolfgang will be director of the new Interscholastic Oregon Cycling league. Wolfgang recently moved to Portland from the San Francisco Bay Area where she helped grow the Norcal High School Cycling League, which boasts over 1,200 student-athlete members and is one of the largest NICA leagues in the country.

“A lot of people say that they wish they had something like this when they were in high school because of how inclusive and fun it is,” Wolfgang said in a NICA statement. “What we’ll be able to do is bring teens of all abilities, experiences, and backgrounds into the same space to create a truly unique experience. My favorite part of this organization is that we’ll help show teens what they’re capable of through riding bikes. I’m honored to be involved with the Oregon League and look forward to building up our youth cycling community across the state!”

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Oregon Cycling League co-founder Robert Ping (lower left) with Tualatin High School MTB team members and their teacher at a volunteer build day at Gateway Green last February.

NICA’s Oregon chapter began as a passion project for two Portland-area men who were shocked to find out one didn’t already exist. Camas Bike & Sport Owner Ed Fisher and Portland resident Robert Ping, who has worked to get young people on bikes his entire life and who was recently named executive director of Trips for Kids, met at a meeting of the Northwest Trail Alliance in the summer of 2016. “I was surprised Oregon was the last state in the West without a league,” Ping recalled. With Fisher’s support, he worked for a year to find volunteers, build support for an Oregon league and ultimately, submitted the successful NICA bid.

Bend, Hood River, Oakridge, and Tualatin already have teams in place and are “chomping at the bit” to be a part of NICA.

Ping said in an interview today that 2018 will be a building year; but they’ve already committed to four races next fall. Venues so far include Washougal MX Park and Ski Bowl on Mt. Hood. One of the big things that makes NICA different is they put kids front-and-center. Unlike existing cyclocross and mountain bike races, the teenagers who compete in the Oregon league will be the main event on race day. In fact, they’ll be the only event. “When kids show up at adult races, they’re overwhelmed. Having kid-specific events is much more inspiring and motivating for them,” Ping said.

Ping said he’s recruited about 200 volunteers so far and there’s still a lot of work to do to make the Oregon Cycling League a success in 2018 and beyond. The goal is to have around 200 participants this year. That should be no problem with so much interest in mountain biking across our state already. Ping shared today that Bend, Hood River, Oakridge, and Tualatin already have youth programs and teams in place and are “chomping at the bit” to be a part of NICA.

Eugene and Portland are Oregon’s largest cities, but aren’t expected to produce large teams because of a lack of nearby off-road cycling opportunities. To help remedy that, Ping has been a major booster of the bike park at Gateway Green and is currently on its advisory committee. Gateway Green offers a perfect training ground for Oregon Cycling League hopefuls.

So far this is an all-volunteer endeavor and Ping, Wolfgang, Fisher, and their supporters are seeking to raise $10,000 to help with expenses for the inaugural season. They’re also looking for corporate sponsors. If you’d like to volunteer to help or donate, become a sponsor, or get help starting a team at your school, check out the new website at OregonMTB.org and follow the Oregon Cycling League on Facebook and Instagram.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • pdxbusman December 4, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    This is awesome news! My daughter has been racing for 3 years in the Idaho NICA league, with her Wood River High School taking State the last 2 years. Oregon youngsters are going to to have fun with this program and I expect it will grow rapidly as more schools learn how great the program is. Welcome aboard Oregon!

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    • Robert Alan Ping December 5, 2017 at 11:47 am

      Thanks, pdxbusman, we are excited to get this going! I hear great things about the Idaho league, too, can’t wait to see it in action someday soon.

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  • Buzz December 4, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    Sounds great! Let’s hope the program instills some everyday basic bike skills in addition to racing / recreational use of bikes.

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  • Manville December 5, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Now that is AWESOME!!!!

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  • Cyclekrieg December 5, 2017 at 9:18 am

    The other bonus of NICA programs, not mentioned here, is the increase in neighborhood trails. The school teams don’t want to trek all over creation to do practices, so the teams themselves become the driver for local mountain biking trails.

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  • Brian December 5, 2017 at 9:29 am

    As a local high school teacher, I am really excited about this. Thanks to all of those who have put time and effort into making this a reality.

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  • The Bike Concierge December 5, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I have done some very preliminary research in to this as well, although I may be better off connecting to the NorCal league. We need more activities for the kids, and this seems like a great option.

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    • Brian December 5, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Same. I contacted Heather to get things started. I just need to make sure I have the time to do it right. A good starting point for me (and other potential local coaches/teams) may be the short track series at PIR. I have some homework to do.

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  • RL Kost December 5, 2017 at 10:31 am

    If I read this correctly. Washington has a League also.


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  • NC December 5, 2017 at 10:40 am

    The logo is tired, virtually half of all sports leagues have a rift on the mlb logo (if they were the first, I don’t know.)

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    • Brian December 5, 2017 at 11:38 am

      May be an opportunity for you to get involved?

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      • NC December 7, 2017 at 2:48 pm

        I did in the past (1990) design a logo for a sports league as a co-worker was on the board of it and I commented that I’d do their logo, so maybe.

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  • I wear many hats December 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    This is awesome! Please Heather help to motivate your riders and riders’ families to advocate for local trail access. The silence of OBRA in trail access is deafening. We all need access to trail riding inside Portland. The trails here can handle it. We can share.

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    • rainbike December 5, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Some of us want access…remember the no-single-monolithic-bike-community thing.

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      • I wear many hats December 5, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        I sure remember my first basketball game. It was located within walking distance to my house. It did not require an hours drive. Its asinine for environmentalists to promote driving an hour away to ride a bike, but it sure happens a lot in Portland. Sharing is a value we’re all taught in preschool, but as one edges closer to Forest Park the universal rule is forgotten in a haze of NIMBY-istic amnesia.

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        • rainbike December 5, 2017 at 2:34 pm

          My intent was to dispute your assertion that “we all need access to trail riding in Portland”. Some of us don’t. It had nothing to do with sharing. But since you brought that up, I believe that advocating for segregation in the form of new trails (particularly in the case of Forest Park access) may get you what you want sooner than advocating for sharing existing trails. You’d probably get better trails too. Others may disagree.

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          • I wear many hats December 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

            I completely understand your viewpoint and I would prefer to have “new” trails that are segregated. Opponents to trail access have used, and will continue to use, every trick in the book to prevent access. Long story short, new trails will likely be approved, and then buried in environmental review, followed by litigation. Its actually more environmentally sensitive to the Park to restore and share existing trails, rather than cutting new ones, but that is less politically feasible in this town.

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            • JJ December 6, 2017 at 8:18 am

              There are trails here in Portland. Ride them. No one is in Forest Park or for that matter Riverview handing out tickets. Stop talking, and ride your bike. OBRA? OBRA can barely keep racing going let alone tackle trail access. Leave them alone. If you are looking for huge flowing walls of burm’d up dirt it’s not going to happen here in PDX. Learn to climb and ride what we got… Powell, Tabor, East Buttes, Gateway Green and yes FP.

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              • I wear many hats December 6, 2017 at 8:38 am

                Many do ‘ride’ them. However, the majority are cowed by Marcy Houle and Catherine Thompson, and do not tolerate any potential conflict. Riding would be better for the city, and for everybody, if all the trails were open. I am intimately familiar with most, if not all of the trail mileage in town, and yes, no one is out handing out tickets. As long as 2000 people are sleeping in the parks trail access takes a back seat. One is far more likely to get assaulted by angry NIMBY hikers than get a ticket by the parks department.

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  • Brian December 6, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Thread derailment, but I think this is information we all should know. Rangers are not police and cannot give tickets. Information below is from a WWeek article on our rights.

    Park rangers:

    • Park rangers are not cops.

    • The first time you break a park rule, rangers can kick you out of the park. They can also tell you to stay out for 30 days.

    • If you are caught in the park while suspended, rangers can call the police and have you arrested for criminal trespassing. Otherwise, rangers can talk with you, but cannot force you to do anything.

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    • I wear many hats December 6, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      good point !

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