Twenty24 Pro Cycling has been developing champions in women's cycling for 16 years and supporting athletes toward their dreams to compete at the Olympic Games. Leading the team into the future is Maize Wimbush, the junior women's 15-16 US National Road Race champion, and she has an eye on the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 2028.
The team started as Proman-Hitsquad Professional Cycling Team in 2006 but adjusted the name to match the four-year Olympic cycles since 2012. Twenty24 currently support an elite women's team and a range of junior women's development teams, and owner Nicola Cranmer has a vision to bring the team back to a UCI-registered team in 2023 and 2024, in the approach to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
In 2022, the programme will support 24 juniors, and according to Cranmer, due to the overwhelming response from so many juniors they will add an ambassador club.
Wimbush, 15, lives in White Plains, Maryland, and juggles both academics and her dream of becoming a professional and Olympic cyclist. Next season, she aims to continue her development with Twenty24, compete at bigger races across the US, and win another title at the national championships.
Cyclingnews: Walk us through your victory in the junior road race at the USA Cycling Amateur Road National Championship in Clay County, Florida in June.
Maize Wimbush: I’m 15 and this was my third junior national championships but the first national title that I had ever won. I raced against females from around the United States in the 15 to 16-year-old age group.
We raced for a total of 30 miles on a circuit that was about nine miles. The race was interesting. My teammate Lilly [McLeod] was one of the biggest threats in the race, so I threw in a few attacks, and so did some others. On the last lap, Lilly communicated to me and our teammates that we needed to be together in the last three kilometres because that's where we wanted Twenty24 to win and be first on the podium.
At three kilometres to go, I was getting boxed out and it wasn’t worth going down or anything bad to happen, so I moved to the back and then I tried to move up again. Riders were attacking, and I had lost my position, but I found my way back up to the top five leading into the finish line. Someone sprinted early, and I used their wheel, and I saw the finish line and I knew I could sprint from there all out for the last 150 metres.
CN: How did you feel after winning the junior national title?
MW: When I first won, I cried coming across the finish line, because I was so surprised and I immediately thought that all the hard work had paid off that I had done throughout the years. Throughout the whole day, I was so shaken, and I didn’t believe it. It has started to sink in a little bit. It’s just an honour to have this title that will stick forever.
CN: Were your parents - Mark and Stephanie Wimbush - there to watch you win the championships and what was their reaction following your victory?
MW: Yes. My dad wasn’t at the finish line, but on the last turn. He was talking to someone and telling him that my mom was supposed to call him when I crossed the finish line to tell him how I did. The person told him that the race should be finishing soon and to just stay positive, but my dad never received the call from my mom.
My mom reacted very interestingly. People were telling me that she almost fell when I crossed the finish line, and people told me that her reaction was hysterical. They held a podium two or three hours after the race and everyone had settled, and had chilled, by that time.
CN: How did you feel standing on the podium?
MW: It was my first podium this year, and previously, I had been coming in top 10 in the races. For me to be coming in top 10s and then straight to the top step was unbelievable. I was very excited to pull on the new jersey and be on the top step of the podium with my teammate, Homare Yamashita [second place], standing right next to me.
CN: How long have you been racing with the Twenty24 programme?
MW: I came on when the team was still Twenty20 in December of 2018 and my first season racing for this team was in 2019. In 2018, National Championships were in Maryland, where I live, and the person organizing the race connected me with Nicola Cranmer and Mari Holden. We had a conversation at the race and I was interested in the team; the way they race and communicate, and I knew I wanted to be part of the team.
There are a few teams out there that run a professional programme the way that Twenty24 does, but it’s the only one that is a pro team with a juniors team and it makes the junior team more professional. Nicola is used to managing the pro athletes and she treats the junior athletes like the pro athletes. Shayna Powless used to mentor me, and she is still on the team, and it was before I had a coach, so she was there to help me learn.
CN: How did you get into competitive cycling?
MW: I’m from White Plains, Maryland, where I still live, and I got into sport at seven years old. My dad rode his hybrid every Saturday and I wanted to ride with him. For my seventh birthday he got me my first road bike. I learned the fundamentals until I was nine, and then I did my first race.
I only race on the road now but I do have a mountain bike and I would like to get into track. My racing is inconsistent throughout the year but I do about 20 or so races a year.
My dad takes me to all the races and my mom rides in the passenger seat. It’s become a family thing. They always tell me that they are proud of me and continue to inspire and motivate me, and I think that’s one big thing that keeps me going.
CN: What do you like most about competitive cycling?
MW: I chose cycling because it’s not a common sport. A lot of kids are playing basketball or soccer, typical sports, but cycling isn’t a sport that you hear about or see on the television everyday. I like cycling because it’s different from other sports. I’m in my second year of high school and there is no cycling programme. Cycling is so rare in the US. I only know of one other high school, that’s private, that has a cycling programme, but it’s a few hours away from where I live.
CN: Talented riders have come through the ranks at Twenty24 team, such as Coryn Labecki [née Rivera], who now race on the Women’s WorldTour. Do you aspire to follow that path?
MW: It’s one thing to hear about them, but something completely different when you see them on television. Those people came from my team and some of them are on my team and competing on the world’s stage on television. Every time I see them, I say to myself, ‘I’m so close’. They inspire me.
CN: Where do you see your future in cycling?
MW: My long-term goal is to go to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028. I plan to become the first African American female Olympic road cyclist. I also have two plans. Plan A is to finish high school in 2024 and focus right away on the Olympic Games in 2028. Plan B is that I will go to a college that has a cycling programme and then graduate and go to the Olympics in 2028. Those are my choices but I don’t know the route I will take yet.
CN: What inspires you most about competing at the Olympic Games?
MW: It’s all over [the world] and not just in one place and you can explore areas around the Olympic Games. You also get to compete on the world’s stage, and I know you can compete all over the world, but being able to say that you’ve been to the Olympic Games is a whole different ball game.
CN: Do you feel supported by your family, community and team in your cycling goals?
MW: Absolutely. I receive enormous support from my parents. I can call Nicola, and if I ever need something, she is always there to help. The Twenty24 programme is here to develop and guide me to accomplish my goals. I definitely feel supported.
CN: Do you aim to compete at the World Championships as a junior?
MW: Yes, when I move up to the 17-18 age group, competing at the World Championships is a main goal. My first year in that category will be in 2023.
CN: What are your strengths as a cyclist?
MW: In cycling, my strengths are communicating, sprinting, strategy, and executing plans.
CN: What are your short term goals for next season?
MW: For the 2022 race season, I would like to come into the racing season with better conditioning and a higher performance. I would like to do bigger and better races next season. And of course I would love to come home with another national title next year!
CN: How do you juggle academics and being a competitive athlete during the school year?
MW: I’m in public school, and a lot of cyclists who compete at a high level are homeschooled, I have considered that but I’m in a cyber security programme and I wouldn’t be able to do that at homeschool. The only struggle I face is cycling and school interfering with each other. I try to get all my school work done because academics comes first and cycling second. So, when I go to school, then I get home and get my schoolwork done, train, then I want to have time left over for something that I want to do. It’s not that I don’t like cycling but I have to plan it out. For the most part, my teachers and administration is supportive, and we keep good communication so that if I need to travel then I can do my home work while I’m away.
CN: What would you like people to know about you outside of cycling?
MW: Outside of cycling, I like to paint, but I don’t know what type of an artist I am. I like painting cartoons and abstract art. It’s just for fun. I also like photography. I love Mexican food. If anyone wants to follow me on Instagram - @amaizencyclist
Twenty24 Pro Cycling roster in 2022
Junior Race Team 17-18
- Coco Diemar (USA)
- Lilly Mcleod (USA)
- Homare Yamashita (USA)
- Samantha Scott (USA)
- Alexa Stierwalt (USA)
- Mahika Peterson (USA)
- Jessica Hall (USA)
- Makala Jamarillo (USA)
- Amelia Hicks (USA)
- Isabella Robusto (USA)
Junior Team 15-16
- Maize Wimbush (USA)
- Ragan Weigel (USA)
- Lauren Weigel (USA)
- Addie Slutz (USA)
- Dahlia Kissel (USA)
- Charlotte Lehmann (USA)
- Katie Smock (USA)
- Eire Chen (USA)
- Alexis Jaramillo (USA)
Junior Team 13-14
- Sarah Vargas (USA)
Junior Team 9 -12
- Aine Chen (USA) 11-12
- Ana Regina Morales (USA / MEX) 9-10
- more coming soon!
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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