Meet Steve Tilford: The Cycling Legend Is Still Racing

Posted: October 27, 2010 in Cycling

Career Highlights

4X US National Cyclo-Cross Champion
5X UCI World Champion MTB-Masters
3X World Road Team Member
1st NORBA National Mountain Bike Champion
Inducted into Mountain Bike Hall of Fame-2000


1st Hell’s Kitchen Road Race, Hogeye, AR
1st Auburn Road Race, Auburn, KS
2nd SaltyCow Road Race, Tulsa, OK*
4th Pace Bend Road Race, Austin, TX
4th Old Capitol Criterium, Iowa City, IA
4th New Cross on the Block, OKC, OK
5th Rut and Guts Cross, Broken Arrow, OK
6th Hotter’ n Hell Criterium, Wichita Falls, TX
6th Tour of Battlekill, Cambridge, NY*
6th Walburg Road Race, Walburg, TX
6th Iowa City Road Race, Iowa City, IA
6th Quad Cities Criterium, Rock Island, IL
7th Tour de Lafayette, St. Louis, MO
8th Snake Alley Criterium, Burlington, IA
8th Tour of Kansas City Overall, Kansas City, MO

It was a tremendous honor to have ridden quite a bit with Steve back in the early 80’s.  He taught me a great deal about self-discipline, but also about enjoying life.  The guy has always figured out how to earn a living as a pro cyclist, savor it, and stay motivated for a very long time.

These are a few snippets from a recent Pez Cycling Interview.  You can see the whole interview with Edmond Hood here.

PEZ: How many seasons have you been racing, Steve?
Steve Tilford: My first season was 1975 and I’ve raced every year since; that’s 35 years – it’s not normal, is it?

PEZ: Why have you never quit?
ST: I never found anything I’d like to do as much. It’s not just the racing, it’s the travel, the people you meet – I don’t want to do anything else; but if I think of something, I might try it.

PEZ: Teams – Levis, Scwinn, Vosschemie, Pepsi, Wheaties, VW, Scott, Specialized – have I missed any?
ST: No, that’s about it, but pro racing in the States isn’t like it is in Europe. The UCI introduced all that Division one, two and three stuff, but in the US we were more flexible; I could ride the US road and crit champs on my own but now the UCI enforce the teams rules. Our team, Tradewind Energy/Trek has five or six guys and we race well at the likes of Battenkill, which is a UCI race – but you get 11 or 12 local guys who somehow get $27,000 dollars together and they’ve got a UCI team. There are maybe 40 good pros in the US and 150 who make up the numbers.

PEZ: You’ve been US ‘cross champ, too.
ST: Twice as an amateur and twice as a pro; I still race ‘cross but not so much last winter because I was roofing a building. One year when I won the Nationals I lapped everyone except the silver and bronze medalists.

PEZ: Do you still ride all disciplines? – what about the track?
ST: Yes, I still ride all disciplines; I’ve ridden a bit of track too – I had the US hour record back in ’83 or ’84 until John Frey broke it. I’ve ridden the track five times in my life and four of those occasions were the track Nationals; I picked up a team pursuit silver medal with Steve Hegg one time.

PEZ: What has been your favourite part of your career?
ST: When I was on the Levis team with Andy Hampsten and Roy Knickman; when we were outside the US we got to race for la Vie Claire in races like the RCN classic in Columbia but then when they were in the US for the Coors Classic, we’d be racing against the guys we’d been team mates with. Back then there were two good teams, Levi and 7-11; and the sport is still a little like that, a few good teams and then a lot of other teams. (editor: Andy Hampsten won the Giro d’Italia in 1988)

PEZ: Do you ever ride the World masters?
ST: I’ve won the mountain bike Worlds masters five times – but that was for my sponsors; I’m not so interested in beating up on a bunch of old guys. I’d rather be tenth in pro race than win a masters – unless there was a $1,000 prize for winning the masters, of course! I ride the masters at big cross races but that’s just so I can ride the course at race speed to get the feel of it.

PEZ: Who impressed you the most during your career?
ST: Greg Lemond, by a mile; he’s the most talented natural cyclist I’ve ever encountered – he could have won the Tour de france when he was 17, I think. There were some of the most talented juniors in the world at that time; guys like Davis Phinney – but Greg was twice as good.

PEZ: How many more seasons?
ST: I dunno! maybe I’ll keep going ’til I’m 60? I have a little less snap now, my jump’s not as good but I can still sprint. The big thing you notice is that it takes you so much longer to heal – one time in the Milk Race I broke my leg, hand and collar bone and was back racing at the Coors Classic within five weeks. I’ve broken my collar bone pretty often, that heals in about three weeks – it’s broken ribs that are the worst.

I remember talking with Steve about getting stitches about a million years ago.  He said that he has a simple rule: anything below the neck he does himself.  The guy will often offer up that he no longer feels the pain, probably because he has killed so many brain cells racing that it just doesn’t register.  You gotta love the guy.  And, that Raleigh Team Pro that he is riding in the first photo…I got one just like it that I bought from Andy Hampsten for $650 when he needed gas money.  This is a Nottingham, England built with Reynolds 753 tubing masterpiece.  I love the bike.

Visit Steve’s Blog

Todd Spain, Editor



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