New team launches honoring the legacy of Steve Tilford
The Maap | Mini Cyclocross program, a cyclocross team out of Lawrence, Kansas in the United States, has partnered with the Steve Tilford Foundation to expand its program into a multi-surface cycling team. With the help of the Steve Tilford Foundation, the formerly one-rider team has added a development and master’s program, and an additional two elite racers; three-time Cyclocross National Champion Stephen Hyde and former road professional Joseph Schmalz.
Maap | Mini CX was originally home to only Raylyn Nuss, a former college basketball player who turned to triathlon, and then eventually found her happy place in the cyclocross community. Together with Richard Breininger, Nuss started Maap | Mini CX as a pathway to achieve her own goals in the sport. Now, for the upcoming cyclocross season, Nuss has expanded her team to accommodate more than just cyclocross. Of course, by adding Stephen Hyde, the team will keep Nuss’ goals of racing with the best in Europe alive.
The Steve Tilford Foundation is a non-profit foundation created to carry on the ideals of its namesake; to help young cyclists in their quest to fulfill their dreams in the sport. Tilford himself is a legend of American cycling. A many-time national champion in both mountain biking and cyclocross, he also competed for the USA in the World Championships on the road.
The CEO of the foundation Eric Struckhoff said, “Steve was, above all, a bike racer. Though his influence reached far beyond racing, it all started there: on the start line, at the front, racing at the highest level. We are excited about the future, grateful for the ambassadorship of these outstanding riders, and looking forward to 2022 Worlds in Fayetteville.”
“We have this rare opportunity to be a part of a new foundation where the athletes not only get to compete at the highest level, but we’ll also strive to foster and grow the cycling community by focusing our passion through mentorship,” said Nuss.
Not only a team that spends all of its energy racing bikes, the Steve Tilford Foundation Racing riders will also work to promote cycling both at the grassroots level and nationwide through education and mentorship.
This new team carries on the ideals of Tilford on all three of its branches. Creating an environment to foster teamwork, respect, dedication, and opportunities for their development team, while also giving Nuss, Hyde, and Schmalz the tools they need to compete at the highest level of the sport. The Master’s team will be filled with former teammates and friends of Tilford and are committed to being ambassadors to the elite and development teams as well as its partners and initiatives.
In addition to the new faces, the team has also welcomed Specialized as their new bike partner. “It is extremely important for this team to partner with brands and people who we align with and Specialized could not be more of a perfect fit,” says Nuss. “Not only is their entire mantra built on the fact that cycling changes lives, which mirrors the objectives of the Steve Tilford Foundation, but Specialized also actively cares about equity in our sport.”
With Nuss and Hyde, the team has a strong cyclocross presence, but that will not be the only discipline the team plans on rocking. Joseph Schmalz, who grew up under Tilford’s wing, being mentored and guided in his career in professional road racing by Tilford, plans to also compete on the gravel circuit.
“As effective as Steve was as a cyclist and a teammate, he was a friend and mentor, first,” Schmalz said. “I met Steve at a local cyclocross race here in Kansas when I was 12 or 13. It was the first cyclocross event I had ever attended and after watching him that afternoon, I was hooked. His skills and his obvious unrivaled passion for competition, were infectious traits, even for a 12-year-old. I can’t think of a better way to be introduced to cycling nor could I have had a better mentor.”
This team has been a long time in the works. Nuss, along with two of Tilford’s friends, Matt Gilhousen and Dan Hughes, has been working to make the team a reality for the last year. Hughes is a gravel racer himself and has won Dirty Kanza, now Unbound Gravel, four times. He owns a bike shop, Sunflower Outdoor, and Bike Shop, in Lawrence, Kansas, where the team will be based.
In general, the United States is lacking in development programs for young up and coming cyclists. One of the most successful organizations in the States, the road team run by Axel Merckx called Hagens Berman Axeon, announced their struggles to find sponsorship for the 2021 season in the Summer of 2020. Another of the development teams in the USA, the Hincapie Racing team, has recently announced it will no longer be around after this year.