Jason Cairo, the League Director of the New York High School Cycling League, is breaking new ground by bringing the NICA movement to the East Coast. New York is far away from the first NICA League in Northern California and is a huge step towards fulfilling NICA’s goal of going coast-to-coast by 2020. New York could not have picked a more enthusiastic spirit for the job: Jason is a bike shop owner, family man, and heck of a skilled rider. We asked Jason a couple questions to learn more about how he got involved with NICA and why the New York League is going to rock the East Coast.
Q: How did you first hear about NICA?
Jason: I heard about NICA from Gregg Galleta, a customer whom I ride with. I take odd jobs in the winter (slow time for the bike shop) to make some extra moolah. After a few meetings with Gregg, I was introduced to Sammy Bryant from Adidas. Sammy filled me in on what NICA was all about and I was instantly excited to hear what Sammy had to say. As a bike shop owner and racer, I was always curious about starting a bike league for kids, but I never knew how to get started. I soon connected with NICA and started the bid process to become a new league. I’ve pulled a lot of support from friends and the cycling community and here we are, first race scheduled for Spring of 2013.
Q: What is your background/introduction to cycling?
Jason: I started riding my bike like every other kid, in my driveway. In the eighties it seemed everyone was on a BMX or trick bike, and I was no different. My growing passion for riding was only encouraged by my mother, who gave me the thumbs up when I came to her with the idea of building a ramp or a jump. Her only requirement: “just keep it out of the main yard”. When I was thirteen, I started working at the local bike shop, putting kids’ bikes together and doing repairs. When my family moved to Middlebury, Vermont I was quick to find another bike shop gig. I started working for the Frog Hollow Bike Shop, where I got to ride my first mountain bike. I soon got into road riding but I always loved racing down logging roads on the mountain bike. I have been racing mountain bikes since the mid nineties.
Q: Why NICA, what made you pursue starting a New York League?
Jason: I always wanted to give back to the sport that has done so much for me. Once I heard NICA did that on a youth development level, I knew this was my chance. New York has so much to offer cycling-wise. Plus, mountain biking has made a strong stand with so many mountain trails just 20 miles from the city. I knew I had to lead the charge!
Q: Every League has it’s own flavor. What is going to be New York’s?
Jason: “Dedicated like all New Yorkers”. The East Coast has so many great outdoor sports, but to craft your skill you need to be dedicated to your sport of choice. The surf rocks in the winter and hurricane season. The skiing is killer but you need to have skills over dicey sections of ice. The cycling is awesome but you need to go to the mountain and that’s not out the back door for some. If you dedicate yourself, any sport can be enjoyed and crafted.