Board of Directors

Jerry Pomije – President

Year of birth: 1965

City/State of Residence: Prior Lake, MN

City/State of Birth: Faribault, MN

Day Job: Vice President, Operations and Finance – Quality Bicycle Products, Inc.

Jerry has a passion for coaching and mentoring kids and getting them excited and engaged in activities that they can learn and grow from. He has been actively involved in coaching and supporting youth activities including  baseball, football, basketball and outdoor environmental retreats. He is now thrilled to be a part of building the NICA High School Mountain Bike League.

As a Senior Executive for Quality Bicycle Products (QBP) since 1997, Jerry helped QBP rapidly grow into one of the most successful and respected companies in the bike industry. He is excited to share his skills in vision, strategy, execution, finance and operations to help NICA grow.

With many mainstream high school sports limited to a select few athletes, Jerry’s vision for NICA  is to see it grow into a new inclusive mainstream nationwide high school sport. NICA brings a great opportunity to engage kids in a healthy life long sport and lifestyle.

The early great success of the NICA League has created a rapidly expanding demand for new leagues. Jerry expects to use his skills to help NICA meet that demand and grow to its full potential.

Sara Ecclesine – Vice President

Year of birth: 1972

City/State of Residence: Carson City, NV

City/State of Birth: Honolulu, HI

Day Job: Brand manager, SIDI America

Now the US brand manager for SIDI America, Sara Ecclesine has had a 17-year career in the cycling industry that includes working for a global manufacturer, distributor, subsidiary, and at retail as a buyer and fit specialist. While at Specialized she was central to the development of the women’s bicycle line. A persistent focus of hers has been to make cycling more accessible to more people.

She raced for 10 years on the road, mountain bike, cyclo-cross, and track. Additionally, Sara has taught beginning mountain biking, run weekly women’s rides, taught bike maintenance classes, participated in and organized trail work days, and promoted a mountain bike race. She is currently involved in trail running and ran her first ultra in July of 2009.

Sara has some key objectives in her ideas for NICA’s future. “I want to see NICA bring more girls into the sport, and I want NICA to give kids that are typically under-served by high school athletics (whether it’s scrawny climbers or beefy descenders) a place where they can benefit from the physical and emotional development of team sports,” she says. A former participant in the National Collegiate Cycling Association, Sara also sees some potential parallels for NICA at the high school level.

“Kids who learn mountain biking in high school grow up to ride centuries or do 24 hour races or commute by bike. NICA can start them on that journey.”

Trevor Thorpe – Secretary

Year of birth: 1967

City/State of Residence: Kensington, California

City/State of Birth: New York, New York

Day Job: Attorney, Thorpe Law

As a young rider, Trevor raced locally in Northern California and nationally with Vigorelli-Zullo, GS Mengoni, and Plymouth-Reebok before going on to become the national collegiate road race champion and participate in a successful effort at the World University Games in 1990. In his career as a Family Law attorney, he considers himself fortunate to be able to practice law with members of his family at Thorpe Law – a name that Bay Area cyclists recognize as the long-term sponsor of the East Bay Velo Club.

Having begun a 13-year cycling career while a freshman in high school, he knows first-hand how much young riders can benefit from a supportive and well organized racing program. As an attorney, he is in a position to advise NICA regarding legal matters, help with organizational issues, and advise on formalizing contractual relationships.

Trevor advocates the NorCal model. “The NorCal League got it right. It is as near to a perfect high school sport as I can imagine. There are throngs of cheering supportive teammates, coaches, and family at the races—and while competitive, there’s a lot of camaraderie. Even competitors from different teams support and cheer each other on. Student athletes of all levels are able to have a positive sporting experience that will stay with them the rest of their lives,” he says. His vision for NICA is that it preserves the NorCal model and replicates it in other regions across the United States.

Careful management of opportunities and enthusiasm to form new leagues is needed in the years immediately ahead, says Trevor, to protect the NICA vision. “NICA has to find its legs in the next couple of years and help to establish successful leagues that replicate the NorCal experience. It worked with SoCal, and Washington and Colorado are looking really good, so we’re off to a strong start.”

Thomas Zirbes – Treasurer

Year of birth: 1960

City/State of Residence: Los Altos, CA

City/State of Birth: Clinton, IA

Day Job: Financial consultant

After working 25 years as a financial consultant, Thomas Zirbes knew he had earned the respect of his peers when invited to be a platform speaker at the Premier Resource Group conference – a meeting of the top 125 financial advisors in the USA.

Over the years Tom has served on numerous non-profit boards and his background in finance and entrepreneurship he has a very solid understanding of finance and building a business from the ground up.

NICA, he believes will cause the proliferation of mountain biking. “It’s going to be like high school golf, or track athletics. It has unlimited potential,” he says.

The first steps to achieving this, according to Tom, are ensuring “Reasonable sustainable growth, without going too fast. We need to do only what we can manage and not get ourselves spread too thin. That’s one of the highest risks that a new organization faces.”

Rick Spittler

Year of Birth: 1953

City/State of Residence: Richmond, CA

City/State of Birth: Sacramento, CA

Day Job: Social Entrepreneur, Organizational Consultant

Stricken with polio as a baby, which affected the use of his left leg, Rick grew up using the bicycle as a way to “keep up” with the other kids running around the neighborhood. He has continued to be an avid cyclist, commuting to work on his bike as well as riding mountain and road bikes for recreation.

As a social entrepreneur, Rick has been the founder, executive director and board president of numerous non-profit organizations. Much of his work has been on increasing sport and recreational opportunities for youth on a local, regional and national level.

“In terms of Youth Development, the values, policies and standards for excellence established by NorCal are the reasons I am so inspired with this opportunity to work with NICA. These values include, the promotion of girls participating equally, fostering responsible use of trails and wilderness and contributing back to the community. With NICA, everyone pitches in.”

Rick will be using his organizational building skills to prepare NICA to reach it’s full potential and bring High School Mountain Biking, Coast to Coast by 2020.

Eric Russell

Year of birth: 1976

City/State of Residence: San Anselmo, CA

City/State of Birth: Eugene, OR

Day Job: National Sale Mgr, Clif Bar and Company

As National Sales Manager at Clif Bar and Company, Eric has placed Clif Bars into a range of outlets outside the athlete/organic/green consumer markets that had been the company’s focus in its early years. The new Foodservice channel includes universities, school districts, airports, and the military among others.

This experience with breaking new ground is something that Eric believes he can bring to NICA, which in June 2010 did not have a template for operating at the national level.

Back in 1999, Eric worked in marketing for Clif Bar and sponsored the Berkeley High team, which Matt Fritzinger used as the model to create the NorCal League. “We’ve stayed in as a sponsor ever since. To see what it’s grown into and what Matt’s been able to do with it, it’s phenomenal. I have an emotional attachment,” he says.

Eric’s vision for NICA is an organized network of competitive high school cycling teams, coast to coast, with recognition and support by school districts. “There’s a great empowerment in getting kids on bikes. Lots of people have no access to outdoors and nature – just to be that connection would be huge.” And while he acknowledges the need for a structure, he sees sufficient flexibility within that to encourage regional differences. “We’re 50 states, not one big state. There are going to be different dialects, accents and flavors.”

In Eric’s view, early priorities for NICA will be creating a structure that will accommodate the growth of demand. “We’re figuring things out, but new things will come up. We need to get a good structure in place.”

Dan McKay

Year of birth: 1947

City/State of Birth: Knoxville, IA

City/State of Residence: Knoxville, IA

Day job: President of McKay Insurance Agency, Inc. Licensed Insurance agent for over 40 years and co-owner of Peace Tree Brewing Company a regional craft brewer.

Dan started cycling as a 13 year old riding to the neighboring community for a Dutch Letter with friends and raced bicycles on an oval dirt track at a local venue (with jumps!). He has now participated in over 30 RAGBRAI’s – Iowa’s seven day cross state bicycle ride and has toured by bicycle extensively. Since 1993, Dan has been the RIDE RIGHT Director of RAGBRAI; this position is responsible for safety and risk management for the event and also emphasizes bicycle friendly communities and sharing the road with cyclists on a year around basis. McKay insurance provides insurance coverage for over 8,000 clubs, team and events that are Silent Sports (Bicycling, running, canoeing, kayaking, snow shoeing and cross country skiing to name a few). Dan and his wife Becky are avid tandem bicyclists and enjoy their 7 children and 6 grandchildren.


Jasen Thorpe

Year of birth: 1973

City/State of Residence: Boulder, CO

City/State of Birth: Anaheim, CA

Day Job: President, Thorpe Marketing

Jasen grew up working in bike shops from the time he was 13, drawn into cycling by a good junior high school guidance counselor and the undeniable energy in cycling following Greg Lemond’s first Tour win. But he quickly found that his true cycling love was on the dirt, and he could most often be found on the road to NORBA National Championship Series events during summer months as soon as he was old enough to drive. Fortunately for him, both the love of cycling and the career in the cycling industry stuck.

It’s not uncommon to see Jasen on race start lines still, and his career has evolved from retail to include leadership roles in manufacturing, marketing and media businesses. Prior to founding Thorpe Marketing, an agency that provides PR, Media Relations and Marketing Services for a number of cycling, outdoor and more mainstream businesses, Jasen was Editor in Chief and Brand Director for Mountain Bike Magazine.

“At the time I started racing, and working in the bike industry, I wasn’t really thinking about it in a long-term way. I was a kid, doing what felt good. But with the benefit of hindsight, I remain amazed at the places I’ve seen, the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had through cycling. In joining NICA, I look forward to sharing that experience, and helping the organization grow in a way that is good for the athletes, their families, schools and leagues, NICA and the bike industry,” said Thorpe of his motivations to join the NICA Board.

Particularly, Jasen is focused on helping NICA continue to increase it’s support from inside and outside of the cycling industry, and to continue to grow toward its goal of making cycling a recognized, integrated high-school sport nationwide.

“From a health, wellness and sporting perspective, I love what NICA has accomplished, and they’re still such a young organization. I see so much that they can still achieve. For obvious reason, I believe in and want to share the benefits of cycling with as many people as we can,” he said.

“From a bike industry perspective, what NICA delivers goes far beyond an ability to provide immediate marketing benefits to sponsors. NICA has developed what is probably the most-effective approach to creating life-long enthusiast cyclists, from a young age, that the bike industry has ever seen. Any businessperson can see the value in extending their best customers’ lifetime participation window by 10-20 years versus other entry points.”

“One step better, NICA’s approach recruits women, and more widely varying socioeconomic and racial groups than many other entry points to cycling. Along with the health and fitness benefits of cycling, this clearly aligns NICA with the health and wellness community, service providers and insurers, all of whom are grappling with, and investing in, ways to improve Americans’ health.”


Kozo Shimano

Year of birth: 1962

City/State of Residence: Laguna Niguel, CA

City/State of Birth: Osaka, Japan

Day Job: Philanthropist

A cyclist since his early years, Kozo Shimano became a cycling industry veteran by working in a wide range of roles in the family-owned business, culminating in the position of president of Shimano American Corporation. He was the project manager for the original version of the Shimano XTR groupset.

In addition to his time at Shimano, Kozo has spent a term as president of the Bikes Belong Coalition, and currently he enjoys being part of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

With a broad and detailed knowledge of the US cycling landscape, and of course many years spent as a cyclist, he has a first-hand understanding of the challenges facing mountain bikers — from learning the skills to finding good places to ride.

Kozo’s commitment to the development of high school cycling is reflected in his vision of mountain biking becoming “A legitimate varsity sport in the same vein as baseball, basketball and football.”

NICA, he says, provides high school students with an opportunity to experience an emerging form of high school varsity sport, and to learn about cycling: a “life sport.”