Lea and Sabra Davison fell in love with cycling while riding their bikes around their small hometown in Jericho, Vermont. While much of their childhood centered around downhill skiing and cross country running, they soon found themselves focusing more seriously on cycling. During their years in the Junior category, both Lea and Sabra attended the UCI World Championships and competed in numerous World Cup events. In addition to their international racing experiences, the girls competed in the NORBA national mountain bike series across the United States. While racing in the NORBA series, they noticed a large gender disparity on the start line and wanted to find a way to grow women’s mountain bike racing in America.
As they continued to compete in mountain biking, they were often reminded of the need to provide girls with the opportunity to find cycling, both as a sport and a lifestyle. They attended Middlebury College where they teamed up with Angela Irvine to start the Little Bellas program. Angela, a prominent member of the local cycling community and advocate of women’s cycling, shared a similar objective of expanding the sport to the younger generation. As co-founders, they developed a program structure and recruited mentors to run twelve Sunday sessions in Vermont throughout the summer of 2007. During its first season, the program had more mentors than girls, but more than doubled by 2008 when over 40 girls ages 7-12 enrolled in the program.
As Little Bellas has continued to expand to week long camps and establish chapters across the country, Angela and the Davison sisters have worked to build a program that encourages young girls to embrace cycling and fosters empowerment through sport. At camps and during weekly sessions, girls can expect to participate in a wide variety of games aimed at encouraging skill development, both on and off the bike. Little Bellas provides a supportive environment where young girls can be comfortable with themselves and overcome challenges both individually and as a collective group. Additionally, the program emphasizes food as a source of fuel and connects nutritious eating with being able to participate in fun and meaningful activities.
Currently the program is thriving in all of its locations, but shows the greatest interest in Vermont. Last season, the Vermont programs included four week- long camps and weekly Sunday sessions, all of which sold out in less than 5 minutes. While maintaining their focus on developing the Little Bellas program, the Davison sisters have continued to participate at an elite level. Lea, a nine time national champion and 2012 Olympian, currently races for the Specialized Factory team, a long time corporate sponsor of the program. As the Executive Director of Little Bellas, Sabra spends her summers facilitating all national programs, but still finds time to compete at the professional level in Cross Country Skiing. Despite their busy schedules, you can still expect to find the Davison sisters training together in Vermont and supporting the next generation of female cyclists. The Little Bellas team hopes to see you out on the trails!
Little Bellas is a mountain bike organization whose goal is to help young women realize their potential through cycling. We aim to create a community that will empower girls through the sport, emphasize the importance of goal-setting, promote healthy life styles and recognize the positive effects of strong female bonds. While this program is centered around creating camaraderie for girls on bikes, it is most importantly about having fun in a constructive environment.
Little Bellas brings together girls ages 7 to 16 with female mentors in our programs which use mountain biking as a vehicle to teach the importance of teamwork, goal-setting, and fostering a healthy lifestyle. In weekly summer sessions or multi-day camps, mentors and girls ride together at local trail networks, focusing on improving skills as well as participating in team-building activities. The program is organized around a curriculum that builds upon previous skills, and girls are broken up into groups based on age and ability. After the group ride, the groups participate in games that incorporate that day's skill focus. Each session or camp includes the ever important snack.