November’s Point of View – Ricci Family

Every few months we tell a story from within our NICA family that exemplifies the meaningful impact our programs have for all involved. We want to hear your stories!

This month’s story comes from the Ricci family, of the NorCal League.

Mina and Skye are both talented athletes, but more than that they are genuine, honest, thoughtful kids. Additionally, they are consistently sportsmanlike competitors who demonstrate respect and appreciation for all of their fellow student-athletes. Also, in 2017, Mina helped me compose some of our race reports as she is interested in the field of journalism!” -Vanessa Hauswald,NorCal League Director

We recently caught up with the Ricci family to hear about their experiences with finding mountain biking, NICA, and the NorCal League

My involvement in mountain biking started 22 years ago with a promise.

A promise of adventure, beautiful scenery, exercise and post ride socializing. My husband Jack introduced me to this wonderful sport in the Sierra Foothills and we routinely ‘bike dated’ throughout college and in our early married life. It was our way to connect, to spend time in the great outdoors and to explore. Biking led to new friendships, an increased sense of adventure and courage, and ultimately, a stronger relationship with each other. It was our place of peace, our freedom.

And then we had children. Naturally, we thought, our kiddos will ride. They have no choice. We love it. They will love it too, we thought. And love it they did.

When our then 4-year-old Mina’s training wheels came off, her two-year-old brother Skye was right behind her, cruising his two-wheeler down the road before we could even stop him. No training wheels for this guy! The smiles on their faces that day were priceless.

Mina, Alexis and Jack at Mina's 1st Varsity win, Fort Ord 2017.

Mina, Alexis and Jack at Mina’s 1st Varsity win, Fort Ord 2017.

And so the love of biking began for our children. We were thrilled.

Countless cruiser rides around our local Marin County trails began, full of animal sightings, fairy house building and snacks. Over time, the rides got longer, the terrain more advanced. We rode in sunshine and in rain. And yet the smiles remained on their faces and ours.

We had become a biking family. Totally awesome.

We were sharing our passion with the two people we loved the most. And Mina and Skye were just as thrilled to be part of the adventure.

They soon met other grommets who loved the sport as much as they did, bagging Railroad Grade and Tamarancho trails as young tweens. We visited every bike shop in Marin County. We became regular viewers of every mountain bike video out there and the kids were fascinated by trials, downhill, free riding, and road riding. But it was cross country biking that became their ultimate love – exploring miles of gorgeous terrain without cars and even seeing other riders – that made them, and us, most happy.

Fast forward several years and we’re still biking together. With patience and regular practice, the kids skills had improved enough to start traveling more through Norcal, up to Oregon and British Columbia, hitting Whistler and Vancouver Island trail systems. Just. Plain. Epic.

Mina Ricci at CA State Championships 2017, Petaluma

And then this fantastic event called the NICA California State Mountain Bike Championships was held at Stafford Lake Park in Novato.

The kids were mesmerized- bikes galore, riders everywhere, cowbells, and cheering. Wow, we thought! This is the next level of awesomeness- racing amongst peers. The kids were still far away from high school, but we were all hooked.

NICA put together a ‘little’ movie called Single Track High, which showcased a few high school riders experiences during their high school mountain bike season. We were fortunate enough to screen the movie at the Mill Valley Throckmorton Theater and sit among some of the fastest racers in the country – both old and new. The energy couldn’t get any bigger in that room and the kids turned to us and said, ‘we want to race too.’

Time went by and we moved away from Marin County to Nevada City, a small little town in the Sierra Foothills of California.

Both kids were settled into their respective schools and we discovered the local high school had a mountain bike club that was part of NICA’s NorCal League..

“Just try it,” we asked Mina. “We think you’ll like it.” Reluctantly (and emphasis on reluctantly) she said yes. About three weeks into the training season, she was hooked. Between the rowdy teenage riders, the tough terrain, challenging training schedule, and the post ride snacks, she expanded her love of biking tenfold. Mina figured out she was good at this biking thing and she found her mojo, enough so that she swept the Sophomore Division and won the NICA NorCal League Championships and then the California State Championships..

Our first year with the NorCal League was a whirlwind of excitement and awe. The Nevada Union Miners welcomed any willing and able parent and sibling on training riders and to assist with the team, which suited our family perfectly. We were given an opportunity to teach and inspire riders of all levels, particularly the young female riders. To make the training fun so that the kids would smile just as much as they would sweat. To share the importance of good nutrition, adequate sleep and mental preparation before important events. To bring glitter and cheer to the amazing NICA NorCal League races.

We were having a blast. And so were the kids, enough for Skye to ask, “Can I race next year? Please? Please?” We knew this meant skipping a grade for Skye, who was still too young to race in the high school series. But, he wanted to race and hunkered down, did the work, and skipped a grade. All for the opportunity to race in NICA.

Fellow USA Team mate Gwendolyn Gibson, BearDev athlete Michael Mace and Mina Ricci at Canada Cup 2017

During our second NorCal season we got a ‘two for one’ deal on the races!

Not only were we able to enjoy watching MIna race and sweep the Varsity Women category, we also got the joy of watching Skye race as a Freshman and win the NorCal League Championships and the California State Championships. Race day was a very organized and full day for our family. The importance of pre-race strategy, preparedness, and setting intentions became paramount for us, which allowed everyone to maximize the ‘fruits of their labor’ and enjoy the day. Jack and I regularly hi-fived each other during our afternoon Feed Zone ‘date’ sessions, commenting on the awesomeness of the morning’s events.

And so began a new season in life for us, focused and centered around NICA NorCal High School racing, loving it enough to celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and Mother’s day events at races!

Alexis, Jack, Skye and Mina at CA State Championships 2017

The joy and love we share for biking has only increased and inspired new sets of goals for everyone. Naturally, our kids want to continue their successful racing with NICA, and Jack and I are more involved than ever. I am especially focused to inspire young women riders to join the League; the benefits to myself and my daughter have been so rewarding and positive. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll see Jack and I sweeping a NorCal race this upcoming season. That is, if any other bike-loving parents want to share the opportunity!

Thanks for the continual joy NICA!
– Alexis, Jack, Mina and Skye Ricci

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