The 2018 National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) Annual Conference came to Bentonville this summer. It was the largest and most successful conference event in NICA’s history. This benchmark event brought 150 leaders together from 22 states, including California and New York. The NICA Annual Conference provides the leadership of the national cycling movement with a dedicated space and time to connect on a variety of topics. Leaders of the leagues learn from one another and work together to improve national practices and effort. Bentonville was the perfect setting with its IMBA Silver-level ride center status and trails in close proximity to the town. “Having been at every NICA Conference over the past nine years, this was the best yet. Arkansas offered width and depth on all levels. I’m bullish on the future of NICA. Great work,” said Matt Gunnell, SoCal League Director.
The conference programming included discussion and training sessions, panels, roundtable conversations, meals and organized rides. NICA attendees included the NICA board of directors, national office staff, league directors and staff, league board members and advisors, coach supporters, guild leaders and members, advisors and special guests. The Arkansas Interscholastic Cycling League was pleased to host their peers and colleagues in their hometown of Bentonville. Kyla Templeton, league director for Arkansas, said, “This was the perfect opportunity to showcase what Arkansas has to offer in the way of mountain biking experiences. I am sure we will see more NICA coaches, teams and families coming to Arkansas to ride and enjoy the outdoors over the next few years.” Additional highlights of the programming were the launch of NICA’s new Girls Riding Together program (NICA GRiT) and the revitalization of the Teen Trail Corps program (TTC). Both programs are funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation.
Over the four-day conference, local Arkansas league coaches and staff led organized rides to explore the amazing trails in Bentonville, including Slaughter Pen, Coler and the Back 40. Riders were also encouraged to explore the Crystal Bridges museum, local restaurants, coffee shops and breweries. Phat Tire bike shop had rental bikes available to accommodate out-of-town guests and Trek brought a demo fleet to loan out as well.
Most of the conference events were held at the Meteor Theater and guitar center location just off the square in Bentonville. The events always ended with a social hour and live entertainment by local bands. Craft beer was provided by Bike Rack Brewing Co. of Bentonville. An ice cream social and dinner was held at Compton Gardens. NICA Arkansas coaches, parents and student athletes socialized enjoying delicious ice cream and a food truck dinner. Activities included door prizes from OZ Trails, games and an art project.