Dirt Rag Magazine

Riders Write: The power of high school MTB racing

This reader submission comes to us from Hannah Heydinger. She just finished her senior year racing in the Texas High School Mountain Biking League where she was team captain for St. Stephen’s in Austin. In 2015, Heydinger was invited to the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) banquet to be awarded the Specialized Student Athlete Leadership Award. In addition to all that, Heydinger wants to study creative writing in college and we’re pleased to have her story. We hope you enjoy her perspective! (Thanks to her mom for the photos.)


I started mountain biking during my freshman year of high school when the St. Stephen’s mountain biking club decided to join the Texas High School Mountain Biking League. According to the league, a National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) chapter, then in its second year, the riders lacked only one criteria for competing: a girl. I didn’t have any experience mountain biking but was recruited due to the reputation I had gained for riding my bike to school with a lacrosse stick, a backpack, a P.E. bag and an alto saxophone.

Andrew Andres, my coach, told me to record three goals before my first race. They were meager: don’t get seriously injured, meet new people and don’t get last place. I achieved all of these goals and surprised myself—and everyone else—when I wound up first in state for freshman/sophomore girls and was voted team MVP.

25418534005_0f80553bee_oAndrew showed me how important it is to have someone be so dedicated in your success that you strive to push yourself and do the best you can. Andrew moved to Kenya two years after my first race. I was teaching a middle school girl how to ride up a technical climb when I mentioned how much I was going to miss him.

“He knew what I was capable of better than I did,” I said. “When I was struggling to get through a rough part of trail, Andrew would push me to make it, and I would.” She responded by saying, “that’s who you are to me right now,” and I was more proud at that moment than I had been after winning the championship two years earlier.

If you happen to camp at a Texas ranch in the Spring, you might see hundreds of kids in colorful jerseys sleeping in tents, riding mountain bikes, or running along trails and cheering. Riders are shouting, “great job!” while passing each other, and coaches are cheering, by name, kids that aren’t on their teams. The scene is a picture of sportsmanship at its best. It was this environment that enabled me to grow into the leader and athlete that I am. I have NICA—and all of the league directors, coaches, and volunteers who make it run—to thank for making mountain biking truly something special. Attend a NICA race and you’ll witness kids achieve things they didn’t think themselves capable of.

I have heard of no other sport in which the competing varsity girls can be found leaning over their tires chatting, encouraging each other and sharing Shock Blocks in the few minutes before the start of a race. “How did the Calculus final go?” and “Look, the cute rider on the Bowie team is over there” and “You finally replaced Joey! (the name of the rider’s former aluminum hardtail)” are not the sorts of things you hear from competing varsity basketball or volleyball players.

Competitors support each other and this is always something that surprises people who are new to NICA. We race against each other one moment and hug it out on the podium the next. It is this friendly environment that supported my growth as a leader. I am a successful leader largely because of the support I receive from the communities I lead, and this has been evident from my time in NICA. I enjoy introducing more girls to mountain biking because I want to share this experience. Constantly challenging myself shows me what I’m capable of, and teaching beginners, not just racing, enables me to put these capabilities to use in a way that feels truly fulfilling.

Team 3rd place in Troy, tx 2013 (1)

In January, I was honored to attend the 2015 NICA Awards to receive the Specialized Student-Athlete Leadership Award at the Cliff Bar Headquarters in Emeryville, California. I met the recipients of the other awards the night before the ceremony and I can honestly say that I have never made friends so quickly.

The stories of the six other student recipients, especially those of the GU Extraordinary Courage Award recipients, Kade Brantiongton and Esmée DeBarssi, evinced how powerful NICA is in the lives of its student riders. Kade was from a small town in Colorado where he faced rejection and harassment— including getting his car vandalized—for quitting football to start mountain biking in the Colorado league. Mountain biking in the NorCal league helped the Esmée overcome Anorexia and she now educates students and coaches about promoting a healthy body image and overcoming eating disorders.


We spent the morning of the award ceremony riding Mount Tamalpais with incredible riders like Todd Wells, Lucas Euser, and Gary Fisher before going to the Marin Museum of Bicycling to learn more about the incredible machines that brought us together in the first place. After a memorable evening at the Cliff Bar Headquarters, the other student recipients and I spent as much time together as we could, talking together in the hotel until our exhausted parents called us back to our rooms so we could prepare for the flights that would disperse us back across the country.

Every once in awhile, I’ll get a message from the “Super Awesome Bikers” group text we created before the awards. We still check in to see how each other’s races are going. I don’t always know what they’re talking about—I still don’t know what a bleed port screw or caliper is—but I know that we’re going to get back together to go riding again someday.

Just like there are “theatre people” or “music people,” there are “biking people.” They are, in my opinion, some of the best people there are and I am so grateful that NICA gave me the chance to become one.

Thanks, Hannah, for sharing your story and good luck at the University of Texas! Want to submit words to us? Learn more here.



Video: NICA’s Slowmo Bro learns about trail stewardship

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) just released the latest edit from its “Slowmo Bro” video series, in which pro mountain biker Matt Hunter rips berms and learns a few things about trail stewardship.

NICA and IMBA’s tips for showing your trail love:

  • Participate in local trail maintenance and trail building days. The more you help build, the more there is for you to ride!
  • Don’t poach trails when they are closed for maintenance. Nobody likes a busted berm.
  • Don’t build any trails or features without the permission of the local land manager.

See the entire video series and learn about high school mountain biking.



Video: Adventures of Slowmo Bro, part 3

Adventures of Slowmo Bro” is a video series produced for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) that features professional mountain bikers teaching lessons on trail etiquette and trail maintenance. NICA oversees middle and high school mountain bike racing and launched this series with the support of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

Episode 3 features Hans Rey and is all about using and loving the trail.


Video: Adventures of Slowmo Bro, part 2

Adventures of Slowmo Bro” is a video series produced for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) that features professional mountain bikers teaching lessons on trail etiquette and trail maintenance. NICA oversees middle and high school mountain bike racing and launched this series with the support of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

Episode 2 features Greg Minnaar and Kate Courtney (the current U23 Cross Country National Champ) plus a cameo appearance from Dirt Rag’s own founder and publisher, Maurice Tierney.


Lindine and Barclay win 2015 NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic

By Sue George. Photos courtesy of the Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team.

The last day of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic brought a few more miles and lots of smiles. For the elite men, the final day was shorter, but no less intense, with 26 miles of twisty singletrack for racers to whip through in an effort to grab one of the tightly-contested top spots. Two fun enduro sections offered up the last points for the gravity specialists to grab. Most everyone else decided to celebrate a good week with a nice, relaxed ride in the woods with friends.

Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist) and Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) celebrated overall victories in the elite men’s and women’s general classification. Final stage wins went to Dan Timmerman (Riverside Racing) and Megan Chinburg.

Elite men’s overall winner Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist)

Elite men’s overall winner Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist)

Elite men

Dan Timmerman (Riverside Racing) took advantage of his fifth place in the general classification (GC) to escape for a stage win.

“I was of no consequence in the GC, so I figured the guys would give me a bit of room,” said Timmerman. “And I attacked at a good place. No backpack today. I think that was it. My back was feeling good today!”

Timmerman enjoyed the race and his result. “Great experience overall—there were a few days when I got myself up there, and I’m happy with that,” he said.

Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist) fended off an attack by his teammate Payson McElveen to grab the overall NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic win, his second ever. His team worked well together and dominated the podium as a result.

“We rode a great team race all week long. Today, we were one-two coming out of the time trial, Payson and me, and Tristan was in third or fourth, and we got him into third,” said Lindine. “We did smart team tactics all week. Payson unfortunately flatted yesterday, and so I had the leader’s jersey today. We had enough of a gap to have a friendly battle today. It came out perfect, we got 1-2-3 in the general classification. It’s so nice to have the cards to play. Peter [Glassford] had an unfortunate situation trying to battle all three of us. You fight those odds and it’s impossible to win.”

Lindine pointed out that to race hard on this seventh day is asking a lot of already battered bodies. “Today was hard. This day is always like a normal cross country race at the end of some endurance days, so your legs don’t want to do what you want them to do. Between Peter and Payson charging, it was managing the leaks in the ship. It’s pretty awesome to win, it’s a tough week of racing.”

Payson McElveen (Competitive Cyclist), having been in prime position to win for most of the week and then losing time yesterday due to a mechanical, was not willing to give up without a fight.

“I threw everything I could at Justin, but I knew seven minutes was a pretty tall task in 28 miles,” said McElveen. “My plan was to sneak into the singletrack first and hope he’d be a couple riders back, but I went a little too early and he just jumped on my wheel. I went hard for the first 15 minutes and settled in, then hit it hard at halfway. Timmerman threw down a massive attack. I chased him, both Justin and I chased him, but my legs were so sore when I woke up this morning from running yesterday. I was chasing as hard as I could, he had more gas than me though, so I was happy with second.”

About coming so close and then settling for second, McElveen said, “It’s pretty bittersweet. It’ll take some time to fully appreciate, but it’s an improvement from last year. It was everything, having a team. Poor Peter. He didn’t complain a single time, just pulled. Based on how much he could have complained, I was so impressed with his professionalism. Big props to him.”

Peter Glassford (Trek Canada) was the lone man in the lead group, but he nevertheless made a valiant effort to get away, being only a few seconds from third in GC. “It was hard. I didn’t think I’d have a lot today,” said Glassford. “I felt OK, but it’s amazing how fast I went considering how crappy I felt. There were some accelerations but mostly I led. Then on the gravel road, I put in a last-ditch effort on the long climb up through the feed zone, but it got steep fast and I sort of caved in. It came back together, and after that, Tristan and I were really tired. My body said, let’s just enjoy this.”

After the dust settled, Tristan Uhl (Competitive Cyclist) had hung on to his third place. “Today was hard! Started fast. Peter and Payson were pushing the pace from the get-go, but my strategy was to just hang with Peter and hope he couldn’t drop me,” said Uhl. “We both put in some surges, he was tearing my legs off on the long climb but I was able to stay with him, and we came to an unofficial truce at the end. We were ready for it to be over, I think.”

Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)

Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)

Elite women

Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite Team) has been a favorite to win this race in all four years she’s entered, and at last, today she stood on the top of the podium. Since the women’s standings were fairly spread out, they decided to do a “parade lap” and have some fun.

“Today was definitely a parade! There was a bit of confusion for a bit, since two of the Under 25 riders were going to race, so women in the elite category got nervous that if they went fast enough, it would change the overall GC standings,” said Barclay. “But it turned out that the two had a mishap and were behind anyway. We all got back together at the checkpoint, and it was a proper party pace from there.”

Barclay is happy to bask in glory. “First GC win here! It feels amazing,” she said. “I was a little concerned in the last day that something would happen to my bike and everyone would just ditch me. It’s a party, but inside, everyone is still worried about their times. It was a fun ride with a great group of women. The dynamics this year were good.”

Mical Dyck (Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite Team) had the skills to earn second place in both the elite women’s and enduro categories. “It was a fun week, but abusive on the body and bum! It was super nice today doing a parade lap and not having to go for it,” said Dyck.

This was Dyck’s first trip to the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, and she learned some geology. “I knew it would be rocky, that’s what I had heard about the trails out here,” she said. “In Victoria, BC, we have a ton of rocks, but different rocks. We have big rock slabs. But this is constant false flats so you have to pedal through smaller rocks all day. I would definitely challenge it again, I like to suffer.”

Cyclo-crosser Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing) came in third in GC while having a good time at her second stage race. “It was super challenging in a lot of different ways,” said Anthony. “It was such a great event, I’m so glad I was here. I’ve only done one other one, with a lot more people, around 1,200 people, so this is much more close-knit and fun.”

Anthony showed her prowess on the technical sections of the course and earned the top spot for the women in the East Coast Rocks competition.

Libby White (Colt Training Systems)

Libby White (Colt Training Systems)

Under 25 men and women

Libby White (Colt Training Systems) was able to hang on through the week to take the overall win for the Under 25 women.

“It’s been exhausting! After day 1, I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep it. I was surprised to get the lead on day 1, but I kind of killed myself,” said White. “Then enduro day came and all these long days, but today we had ourselves a parade stage and finished things out.”

White pointed out that in such a long race, relaxing and socializing can help you focus. “The motivation came from talking to people and making sure I was having fun,” said White. “When you ride this many hours, you have to make sure you’re having fun and are mentally in the game. I usually just picked a pop song for the day. Today was ‘Bad Blood’ by Taylor Swift, so I just keep singing that.”

For the Under 25 men, Drew Dillman (Colt Training Systems) remained just behind Payson McElveen for second place. He also showed his technical skills by winning the King of the East Coast Rocks competition. His teammate Cameron Dodge rounded out the top three.

Sue Haywood (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)

Sue Haywood (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)


Sue Haywood (Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite Team) has built upon her considerable technical cross country riding skills to transform herself into an enduro specialist, and her NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic Enduro win is her first win this season. It’s not necessarily easier than cross country, though.

“Lifestyle enduro is not all fun and games! It’s mostly fun, but you still have to charge every downhill, even the ones you don’t know, so you’re reading them fresh,” said Haywood. “The thing about enduro is you still have to keep yourself together throughout the week. You’re either going to have a mechanical or a crash. It hurt, but I could still go on. No mechanicals, no flat tires, which was great.”

Haywood remains a threat for either category and could take her pick. “I knew enduro would be a possibility,” she said. “This is my first race of the year. I thought I’d have more in the tank for the cross country stuff, but I had nothing. So being able to focus on enduro was awesome. Cody [Phillips] has said this, but you cannot pursue two goals here. You won’t be able to to do top-notch in the GC and the enduro. Mical [Dyck] got second in both, but if she’d focused on enduro, we would have been super tight, and mentally I would have really had to step it up. It’s so taxing, everything, and it’s so hard mentally and with your adrenal glands going crazy, to do both.”

Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team) was a favorite to grab the elite men’s enduro win, but he just missed out when talented cross country racer Bryan Fawley (Kodiak Tough) decided to focus on this category instead of open men. “I just lost it today by 60 points,” he said. “[Fawley] got me on both of the segments today and we were only separated by 20 points, so that put him in the win by 60 points.”

Phillips was philosophical about his close loss. “I give it all I have and there’s nothing else I can do,” he said. “It’s different from cross country where you can see where people are. So I go out and try to focus and relax. It’s what I’ve been doing for the past few years, so I know how to do it. But he beat me straight up today. I can’t complain! He made it really hard, especially compared to last year. No one was that focused on it last year.”

Some of the credit for the fun enduro sections goes to Phillips, who gave feedback on the course after racing last year. “Getting more people here for enduro was the goal,” he said. “I gave the promoters a lot of input on the course to improve the enduro segments so we have more guys coming from out West to participate. We need to have more downhill to get the big names out here. I think the prize money is enough to bring people out though.”

Special Announcement: Pennsylvania gets new NICA High School League

High school mountain bike racing is coming to Pennsylvania in 2016. At the awards ceremony of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic on Saturday afternoon, organizers announced that the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) has awarded Pennsylvania a new league.

“We started on this effort a year and a half ago, and I’m excited to announce that NICA has accepted our bid,” said Mike Kuhn who submitted the bid for the league in conjunction with Pat Engleman, Mike Bush, Matt Spohn, Lou Mazzante, Todd Strauss, Jason Thomas, Clay Chiles and Bruce Bedell.

Pennsylvania High School Mountain Bike Racing will be conducted each fall, with the first season kicking off in the fall of 2016.

Photo gallery

Keep reading

See all our coverage from the 2015 Trans-Sylvania Epic here.



NICA continues to expand leagues for high school mountain biking

nica-logoThe National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA), the governing body for interscholastic mountain biking, announced recently that Alabama and Virginia will be the newest states in its growing nationwide school cycling program, bringing the number of leagues in NICA network to 13.

One of the key features of NICA is its structural ability to work in concert with existing organizations that have parallel missions. Two of the leagues added in 2014, Virginia and Wisconsin, are built on established existing mountain biking programs.

NICA now has league clusters in several parts of the United States. Northern California, Southern California and Arizona; Utah and Colorado; Minnesota and Wisconsin; Texas; New York and Virginia; and Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.

NICA has over 1,300 licensed coaches who are working with 3,500 student-athletes in the USA, giving a very favorable overall supervision ratio of one adult to three student-athletes.

Watch for more as NICA continues to grow.


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