The Day. Over 100 riders from NICA’s ten leagues and communities joined host Jeremiah Bishop at China Camp in Marin County, CA for an exceptionally sunny January morning to launch the start of the annual NICA Awards Benefit Ride & Banquet weekend. Now in its third year, the event has become a must attend for NICA supporters and sponsors, coaches and volunteers, athletes and parents, sponsors and press, and bicycling industry VIPs.
Coffee and bagels greeted riders as they gathered in varied groups ranging from slow and social to scenic park tour to vO2 max. Mike’s Bikes was on hand to provide out of towner’s with ride-ready rigs and last-second checks as ten groups of ten riders thick rolled out onto China Camp’s tentacles. Traversing tight switchbacks and twisting singletrack, with some groups taking the high road and some the low, it was a display of un-choreographed finesse.
“Hands down, this was one of my favorite rides of the year!” said Jeremiah Bishop. “I had the opportunity to talk intimately with Garrison Hayes from Colorado League, the recipient of the Sho-Air Extraordinary Courage Award, who showed me his incredibly unique and advanced prosthetic. But that wasn’t what moved me. It was his self-confidence, his maturity and his gratitude to be on the bike. You’re left speechless. This is a boy with the power to put your own life into perspective through what has been a life-changing vehicle for him – the bike. On so many different levels, NICA provides growth experiences for all involved.”
The Night. The gala evening began with dazzle as 180 guests were greeted on the red carpet by Jeremiah Bishop and then intermingled in the lounge with a host of mountain biking celebrities. Among those in attendance were Ned Overend, Geoff Kabush, Teal Stetson-Lee, former downhill champion Elke Brutsaert and one of the original Polo Ralph Lauren cross-country team members, Mary Hearn. While attendees enjoyed a gourmet dinner, Jeremiah kicked off the evening with his compelling story of rescue and survival from poverty through mountain biking.
Awards were presented to fourteen individuals in ten different categories. The evening’s highlight – the acceptance speeches – showcased the impact that high school mountain biking is having on individuals across the country. Transformations were brought to life through eloquent and often emotional testimonies as award recipients shared their stories to a captivated audience.
“This experience, both during the weekend and as selection committee member, only further strengthens my personal support of NICA. Their work is making a difference in peoples lives,” stated Tim Baker, Primal Director. Specialized’s Advocacy Manager, Lucy August-Perna, who presented the Specialized Student-Athlete Leadership Award added, “It was an inspiring evening and a great glimpse into how NICA has helped change lives across the country.”
NICA extends many thanks to all who made this evening possible and congratulates again, our 2013 award recipients! Join us next year for an unforgettable weekend as we take time again to celebrate our student-athletes, coaches, teams, leagues, volunteers, directors, sponsors and everyone in between!