Photo: Robert Lowe

Photo: Robert Lowe

The NorCal High School Mountain Bike Racing League is looking for a few good mountain bikers. The league, in its eighth season, has grown to 560 racers competing for 33 teams, and this year it spawned a spin-off in Southern California that hit the ground rolling. Now, it is looking to take the show on the road.

In the works are similar high-school mountain bike leagues in Colorado and Washington, and plans for bringing the concept to a half-dozen other states in the next five years. According to Matt Fritzinger, the league's creator and executive director, the rapid success of the SoCal league has led the group to consider franchising in other places.

"From the experience of launching, building and managing the SoCal league, we have gained a lot of knowledge of how we can do this elsewhere," he said.

The fledgling SoCal Interscholastic Cycling League, in its first year, has already attracted 103 kids competing for 14 teams. More importantly, Fritzinger says, the league is nearing financial self-sufficiency.

The high-school mountain bike leagues are funded mostly by sponsors, and attracting new companies is critical to launching new programs. Clif Bar, Fisher, Fox, Shimano, Specialized, WTB and other industry firms have contributed to both leagues. Jim Easton, founder of Easton Sports Development Foundation, also provided the SoCal league with a grant to launch the program.

But for the league to expand to new states, it will be important to find additional sponsors. Fritzinger hopes the new leagues will attract both industry companies and local businesses.

"Some of our existing sponsors are increasing support as things grow, but as you go to a new region, other resources are available locally. When you get the kid next door involved, that's when CEOs are excited about supporting programs," Fritzinger said.

When asked whether the league has any models to follow as it expands, Fritzinger was quick to name two: Outward Bound and the Boy Scouts. If the high-school mountain bike racing league keeps growing, it might not be long before kids are trading their merit badges for gold medals they have won on the racecourse.

Photos: Robert Lowe