Steve Tilford, the first U.S. mountain bike national champion and a Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, was one of two men killed early Wednesday in chain-reaction crash involving two tractor trailers and a van on Interstate 70 in eastern Utah, just outside Grand Junction, Colo.
The crash occurred when the first semi overcorrected after drifting off the road, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce told the Salt Lake Tribune. It flipped onto its side blocking all eastbound lanes. Then a Mercedes-Benz van driven by Tilford, 57, crashed into and through the semi. Tilford got out and was standing next to his van when another semi crashed into the wreckage, striking and killing Tilford. Stanley Williams, a 70-year-old from Grand Junction, was driving the second semi and died at the scene of his injuries. The driver of the first semi was not hurt; the crash closed down the interstate for nearly four hours.
Vincent Davis, a passenger in the van Tilford was driving, told Cycling News the men were returning to Davis’s Denver home from a training camp in San Diego.
“Steve was driving, and I was in the passenger seat dozing when something woke me up — I looked up and thought we were running into a wall,” Davis said. “We hit the side of the truck and went through the trailer and out the top. It was only carrying boxes, so we were hurt but okay.
“I walked up the road to a pickup truck that had stopped and was sitting inside making calls because it was cold out, and then I heard screaming — another semi had plowed into the van, and Steve was back there.”
Davis posted on Facebook that he had suffered a broken sternum but was otherwise fine. Tilford’s dog, Tucker, initially ran from the accident, but has since been found.
Tilford, who was from Topeka, Kan., posted on his blog shortly before setting out from San Diego, writing in part: “Heading East. Kind of later than I had thought, but that is a good thing. Little short of time. I’m going through Las Vegas to drop off some stuff to a friend, Jed Schneider, hopefully. Then to St. George Utah. Vincent has some work there, so he was trying to catch up.
“Tucker has been having a blast in California, but he can sense when we’re going. He was laying on my bag, picture below, when I was trying to pack up.
“I’m short of time, so that is about it. Hopefully they have done the majority of burning in Kansas by the time I get back, but I know that is just wishful thinking. It is early April, so the season of grass fires. I hate it.”
Tilford, who was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2000, had a U.S. National Mountain Bike championship as well as five Union Cycliste Internationale masters’ class championships, four U.S. National Cyclo-Cross titles and two world championships in Masters Cyclocross competition.
The loss is the second in the cycling word over the last week. Veteran British endurance cyclist Mike Hall died March 31 in Australia after being struck by a car during the Indian Pacific Wheel race from Perth to Sydney.