Rick Spittler – President
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 – Vice President
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.”
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.”
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.”
Year of birth: 1959
City/State of Residence: San Rafael, CA
City/State of Birth: Palo Alto, CA
Day Job: Brand consultant
With over 25 years of brand consulting experience, Dave Curtis has managed billion-dollar brands for many fortune 500 companies. He founded Healthy Handfuls Organic Snacks for Kids, and worked for five years as a partner until its sale in 2008. Dave is currently working with Calera Corporation, which hopes to reverse global warming and ocean acidification by sequestering CO2 in concrete mixed from powerplant exhaust and seawater.
Dave and his wife of 20 years, Tina-Lise, live in San Rafael with their three active teen-age boys. For the past 4 years, Curtis has coached the San Rafael Bulldogs MTB Team, which competes in the NorCal League. This team fosters positive life lessons such as persistence, self-reliance and responsibility, as well as nutritional awareness and respect for themselves, their competition and the environment.
NICA is no less than the future of mountain biking in the USA, says Dave. Having observed the rapid decline of youth participation at national events, he believes that high schools are a critical vehicle for regenerating interest in the sport.
He rejects the idea that mountain biking is an alternative sport for kids who “don’t fit in” in mainstream sports, “It’s an inclusive sport for all kids who love cycling,” he says. “Some riders are competitive and others less so, but the key difference with this sport is everyone competes on game day – and they can even train with their parents.”
Early steps for NICA, he says, are creating a concise brand positioning statement that defines what the association stands for, clearly articulating it’s value proposition to potential state leagues and providing a national voice for high school mountain biking.
Year of birth: 1972
City/State of Residence: Lafayette, CA
City/State of Birth: Berkeley, CA
Day Job: Mtbr.com, Mountain Biker, Photographer
Forrest Arakawa is one of the gifted few that can claim to be a professional mountain biker. Having a job working for Mtbr.com has enabled him to mold his passion cycling into a viable career. He has spent the last decade riding and racing his bike around the globe.
In his 13 years spent as a mountain bike racer and 11 working for Mtbr.com , Forrest’s boundless energy and infectious smile have attracted a vast network of close friends and contacts in the cycling industry across the USA, in what some would describe as an extended family.
Forrest’s vision for NICA is to see mountain bike teams become as ubiquitous as baseball teams at the high school level. Spreading the word, and effective fundraising are needed to fuel such massive growth, he says.
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.”
Ben Capron, Development Director
The inventor of the first ‘direct routed’ brake, later popularized by Shimano as the ‘V Brake’, Ben Capron went on to become part of the team at Specialized Bicycle Components. Ben is no stranger to knobby tires: he was born and raised at the foot of Mount Tam. “I’m fortunate that my passion for riding has led to a career in the bike industry – I feel like I’ve been gleefully avoiding a real job for over half my life!” he jokes. The growth of high school mountain bike racing through the Nor Cal League caught Ben’s attention, and he was instrumental in getting Specialized to be a founding sponsor of NICA. His vision is for student athletes, from coast to coast, to ride and experience the joy and empowerment that comes from riding. “I can see it. We will realize it,” he confidently states.