Cycling in Kansas

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I’ve taken a lot of shit over the years about being from Kansas.  When I was a junior, most of the other riders on the national team had never been to Kansas and thought of it as I thought of Alabama or something.  Everyone has their own visions of their Kansas.  I used to tell them that there was only one paved road and one stop light.  And they believed me.

Then after I won the first MTB National Championships, they would call me to the line and say I was from Topeka Kansas and they spectators would crane their necks with audibly chuckles.  I could hear the comments about how a guy from Kansas could ride mountain bikes.  I guess they think it is flat?

Anyway, cycling in Eastern Kansas has been pretty successful, at least since I’ve been racing.  We produced some pretty incredible riders over the years.  Two guys that have raced in the Olympic Games, Marc Thompson and Nathan Sheafor, from Topeka.  Lots of National Championships in multiple disciplines, etc.  Back when I wasn’t a Pro, at one time there were three riders from the state of Kansas on the US National Road team, out of 12.  It was me, Nathan Sheafor and Scott Moniger.  I think there were just a few more than 150 licensed riders in the state then.  Pretty high percentage.

We have some stellar races here too.  The Tour of Kansas City has been going on for over 50 years.  It used to be an Olympic Development Race, which is equivalent to a NRC race now. Lawrence Kansas has promoted great races too.  The KU Criterium, was an Olympic Development race back then too.  Now the Tour of Lawrence, which is amazing.  If you get a chance next year, you should try to attend.  All the categories have a great prize lists and the courses are excellent.

Anyway, we have a pretty good group of elite level riders right now too.  There are a bunch of young guys that are riding pretty fast and it is fun watching them progress.

That is pretty much what I did yesterday at the Tour of Lawrence, watch.  It was muggy hot, like crazy muggy hot.  The crit was 75 minutes and everyone was dragging.  Everyone except Joseph Schmalz.  Joseph won the race again, like he did the day before.  He lapped the field with Alex Hoehn, who is from Kansas too, and a few others.  Alex was 2nd at the Tour of Gila, Cat 1/2, and is riding stellar this season.

I rode better than I had anticipated.  I was shit, but it could have been worse.  I was hot, but I didn’t melt.  I ended up finishing 16th, but at least I finished.  If I wouldn’t have a couple mistakes, I might have finished in the top 10.  But when you’re at you limit, mistakes come fast and easy.

Alex and Joseph are heading off to the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend today.  It is a good time for them to bug out.  The weather is going to be extremely hot this whole week.

Trudi is flying back from Europe tonight.  She was supposed to come back tomorrow, but got her ticket changed to today.  She only has a handful of days back, having to head to California to prepare for the Tour of Utah.

Okay, guess I’m doing heat training all week.  Last week was the least I’ve ridden since January 1st, and I’m thinking of repeating that again.  This virus thing is hanging on.  I hate being sick in the summer.


The women racing in front of the historic Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence.

The women racing in front of the historic Eldridge Hotel in downtown Lawrence.

Tucker and I made the Lawrence Journal World from Saturday.

Tucker and I made the Lawrence Journal World from Saturday.  Tucker is an English Setter though.

Tucker isn't much into the heat either.  He looks like he is flying here.

Tucker isn’t much into the heat either. He looks like he is flying here.


28 thoughts on “Cycling in Kansas

  1. James

    I find the Kansas issue interesting. What is it people think they know about Kansas & where did they formulate the theory that its flat?

    Its been suggested that this idea of what Ks is got started with the Wizard of Oz. Then some trip on I70. Or maybd RT 66 before that??

    Do other states illicit such comentary? “Hey here’s Steve Tilford from Iowa City, Iowa.” Well he must be a farmer?

  2. Joe

    Kansas has some good cycling and some strong riders. But about the state’s politics………..

    1. C Hitchens

      You haven’t seen anything yet. Kris Kobach is as close to pure evil as it gets. Wait until he finds his ground

  3. Jeff D.

    lol. Alabama has some pretty great riding also, both mtn and road. It is hot and muggy in the summer but not so cold you can’t ride in winter. In central Al. Avg temp is 66F w/ summer avg. 81F & winter 49F

  4. numbnuts

    curious to know how you got into racing being from Kansas?
    up here, we have miles and miles of endless big paths (800km worth) plus the gatineau park which is full of single track and miles and miles of dirt roads winding through the mountain.
    We have over 12 teams but not many pro teams. Its a government town, so there is money but it can lead to laziness as people don’t have to try too hard.
    theoretically, we should be producing some great races. We are, we have 2 going to olympics this year.

    So, I’m curious how places that are “flat” without much infrastructure etc… produces great athletes…

    1. James

      Its not flat! And even if it was, what precludes being flat from being a good cyclist? Like, well its flat, so no vo2max genes here? Unless its Belgium.

  5. Clifford

    Even if Tucker is an English setter, the misidentification inspired me to think about John Fahey’s great song “Irish Setter.” Check it out.

  6. Peter

    Try being from Missouri. My first year of college at the University of Minnesota some guy asked where I was from and I said Missouri. Wow, he said, does it snow down there. I said no, snow would kill the palm trees. And this is only a state away.

  7. Wildcat

    I also get the commentary about being from Kansas. Take your pick – “How do you deal with the tornados?” “You’re not in Kansas anymore!” Even though I’ve lived here for 40 years and have yet to see a tornado. Yep, north east Kansas is not flat at all. Beautiful riding! Although the best thing about Kansas are the people. Very nice – loads of smiles – always willing to lend a hand. Except for our Governor – geeze, we still have two more years with that d-bag… Never have understood politics in this state. Never have understood the practice of voting against your own interests.

    1. Christian Davenport

      Nebraska and Kansas are very similar politically. So many people voting against their own self interests, and it’s usually because most Nebraskans outside Lincoln and Omaha are one-issue voters. You can guess what that is.

  8. Christian Davenport

    People elicit similar responses and attitudes when they learn you are from Nebraska. I always tell them there’s a reason Warren Buffett lives here.

    I have a friend who’s wife was looking at transferring to the SoCal office of the company she worked for. While visiting to check it out, my friend met with the company’s relocation office that helped spouses find employment. The placement staffer actually believed there were still cowboys and Indians on horseback roaming the countryside and was in awe that Nebraska had paved streets, running water, electricity, etc.

    Midwesterners need to be proud of where they live (I find most are, but not always proud of the politics ). I know many people who moved away after college to “some place exciting” (east or west coast, usually) only to return after finding their friends who stayed put were light years ahead financially thanks to the relatively low cost of living. Who cares if you have hundreds of entertainment options when you can’t afford a house or spend hours stuck in traffic everyday?

    1. darkcloud

      “The placement staffer actually believed there were still cowboys and Indians on horseback roaming the countryside and was in awe that Nebraska had paved streets, running water, electricity, etc”


      1. Christian Davenport

        I’ve been to SoCal many times. I know midwesterners who have lived there. Even if it wasn’t true, there are plenty of people out there who have absolutely no clue of what is going on in the world beyond their little self-absorbed environment they have created for themselves. Not a problem unique to SoCal, but this incident happened there. Besides, I have the benefit of hearing the account first hand from the person (who I’ve known for decades) who experienced it. You do not. Try to prove me wrong… can’t.

  9. shano92107

    this damn blog makes me think more and more frequently about getting the hell out of ‘paradise’ (San Diego, aka Useta-be-nice-ville) and away to somewhere like KS. Being an oceanographic engineer certainly limits the job possibilities though.. 🙁
    Never been to KS but sure seems like a relatively nice cycling friendly state judging by what I’ve read about the gravel races and Steves writings. I never got the impression it was flat though!

  10. Mike crum

    Its funny how you are always sick . You post u r in a funk, ask on ur blog what to do.. 50 people Tell u to rest, but u go out for a 500 mile week , then bitch and complain how some sickness is still hanging on. Lol.. I say u do this a half dozen times a year .. Bitch about ur health, but do nothing about it. U r a very unhealthy bike racer. Good thing for u u don’t hold down a full time job… U probably be dead trying to ride and work like all the rest of us.

    1. Gary

      What’s really funny Mike is how your always bitching about Tilly bitching. What the hell is your deal anyway?

  11. Nathan

    Thanks Steve for the mention. Very cool also that you and my high school running coach, Clardy Vinson, got into the hall of fame. And everybody else,….eat your hearts out,….going to LIberal KS for a “Sheafor” art show and expect to see Dorothy’s House and Land of Oz while I’m there.

  12. Spinner

    I rode across Kansas a few years ago. I think it was about 700 miles and I can assure you that it was NOT flat. When it was flat I had a nice small ring head wind (rode from ILL to Denver…..headwind all the way….).

  13. Leland Rusk

    I’d never been to Kansas until first racing Dirty Kanza 6 years ago. Now I love it. I bet that race has turned thousands of people onto the cycling in Kansas.

  14. Rod Lake

    Besides great terrain, a good headwind and generally friendly vehicle traffic it’s the people–The Tilfords, Stolte, Walburgs, and the many others over the years–who have created a great culture in Kansas. I’ve lived in three states now and Kansas is by far the best riding of the three.

  15. C Hitchens

    Headwinds in Kansas can require the use of a 42×25 at times, it’s just like climbing a mountain.


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