When Jerry and Mary Schmalz met at a McLouth party, married in 1984 and bought two 10-speed bikes to help them stay in good physical shape, they had no idea of the ride ahead. Their son, Joseph, has been a national top-10 junior racer for the past two years, rode for the U.S. U23 team at the 2010 Kalmthout Cyclecross Word Cup, Belgium, and is featured in Road magazine’s September issue.
“When you have two children and one turns out to be very talented in the sports area, there’s a lot to consider,” Jerry Schmalz says. “We hadn’t prepared or budgeted for Joseph’s talent, but when we saw how passionate and focused he was, we knew we had to do whatever we could to support him.”
The couple, who enjoyed the freedom of cycling as kids, introduced their two children to cycling early and got a taste of the juggling act ahead.
“It’s hard to take two very young, excited kids around the neighborhood on bikes at the same time,” Mary Schmalz says. “One of us would stay at home and cook while the other did cycling duties. We alternated.”
When Mary’s school principal father retired and opened a cycle shop in Atchison, he and Joseph started cycling and racing together. At 9, Joseph won his first race at the 1999 Sunflower State Games and later came home from school with a flier for the Twilight Races that Jim Whittaker put on at Haskell Indian Nations University on Thursday nights during the summer.
“Joseph started the Haskell race in his age group and lapped the field,” Jerry Schmalz says.“We heard Jim call out, ‘Who is that kid, and where are his parents?’ Jim became Joseph’s first coach and coached him from 2001 to 2006. He’s now coached by Adam Mills.”
When his sister Anna quit riding in junior high to concentrate on her studies, Joseph focused everything on racing. He didn’t give girls, movies or parties a look during junior and senior high.
“Racing’s a very expensive sport,” Mary Schmalz says. “Entry fees, cycling gear and accessories cost a lot. We could have made it difficult for Joseph, but when we saw his passion, dedication and work ethic, we altered our already modest lifestyle to support him.”
Both parents admit the road’s been challenging, but they’re happy they made the financial and time sacrifices necessary to support their son. In 2011, Joseph has already won the Tour of Lawrence, Best Young Rider titles at the San Dimas Stage Race and Nature Valley Grand Prix, and been invited to join the Elbowz team.
“It’s taken a small village to help Joseph get where he is today,” Mary Schmalz says. “His sister, extended family, coaches, teammates, sponsors and supporters of all kinds have shown him how to race the right way. We can’t take the credit on this adventure, and we’re grateful for everyone who helps. We’re proud of what Joseph has achieved in racing, but what makes us proudest is when someone walks up to us and says what a good young man he is as well as a good racer.”