Ever since we covered our first USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Kansas City in 2007, Steve Tilford has been part of our lives, and will continue to be, despite his sudden, shocking and premature passing yesterday.
Tilford was a joy to speak with and interview, as he was never afraid to speak his mind on a topic at a race or on his blog, and often it was to the benefit of the "average" cyclocross racer. Tilford offered reasoned opinions on anything from USA Cycling rules to packing for cold weather races. Some considered his post-race words to be cocky, but when considered in the context that he was so dominant in his age group, they were simply honest.
Journalists and media hope athletes will speak their minds instead of reciting clichés and rehearsed soundbites, and in Tilford we found a reliable, informed, accomplished and opinionated interviewee.
In memory of the cycling and cyclocross legend, we've put together a few of our interviews (in text and video) with Tilford over the years. Relive a tiny bit of his life, wisdom and spirit in the clips below.
Steve Tilford Interviews Over the Years:
Soft Pedaling to Race Twice at Nationals
At the 2010 Nationals in Bend, Tilford had more than enough time to enjoy his final go-around and post up the victory as he crossed the line with a 90 second gap over second.
The 50-54 age division champion was also one of the older competitors gunning for a result in the Elite race – the event Tilford told Cyclocross Magazine that he was targeting. “This is really just a warm-up for the Elite race, that’s what I really care about,” said Tilford.
Tilford lamented the fact that he had to go out of his way to avoid getting UCI points during the season, since doing so would have made him ineligible for the Masters event. “I had to avoid getting UCI points in the UCI races I did,” he recalled. At Jingle Cross he had to finish 11th or worse for the C2 races and in 16th or worse for the C1.
Still, he savored the scene of his victory, telling Cyclocross Magazine, “When I went over the flyover the final time, I hesitated up on the top for a moment and got to look around and check out the venue and the crowds. It’s amazing how many people were out in the pissing rain watching a Masters race so early in the morning. Pretty diehard fans!”
In the Elite race, Tilford finished 35th in the Elite race after a poor start position and would start to focus more on Masters titles in subsequent years.
In 2009, Tilford missed racing Nationals due suffering an injury the day before, but always a fan, still made the trip and was out cheering his fellow competitors.
Tilford after the race said he didn’t personally mind the move of future Nationals to January, but correctly predicted the difficulties of doing so. “It will probably suit me better. But for the health of the sport of ’cross? I think that it’d probably be better if they still did the race before Christmas. Cyclocross is a participatory event, and it’s hard for the numbers to keep motivated all the way to January.”
“Cyclocross is a participatory event, and it’s hard for the numbers to keep motivated all the way to January.” -Tilford in 2010 before the January move of Nationals