Steve Knight was born in Halesowen in 1967 and, having loved riding his bike since he was tiny, came home from school at the age of 14 and told his parents he wanted to be taken to “the cycling club”. He’d heard about it from his school friend Mark Forest, who was already a member of the Halesowen A&CC. From the outset he was hooked and was taken under the wing of his early coach and mentor, the late Ralph Digges. As a juvenile (then the name for the youth category) he rode on the track, circuit races and time trials but once Ralph introduced him to cyclocross Steve found his true love.
As a junior, Steve first started appearing in race results around the West Midlands in 1984, including a notable 2nd place in the Boxing Day Cyclocross at Kenilworth Common, a course that was to become a firm favourite and which he returned to again and again in the subsequent decades, winning it multiple times. In 1985 he was 8th in the National Championships as a junior.
Those of us that knew Steve over the subsequent decades of racing will always remember his broad smile, his meticulous attention to his bikes, and how he liked his routines. We’ll also remember the unwavering support of his parents Alan and Pat, who were a regular sight at the races for a full 40 years, Alan in the pits and Pat with the family dog. We send our heartfelt condolences to them.
Upon entering the senior ranks, Steve matured slowly, posting frequent wins in local league races but not troubling the top end of national races for several years, in part due to his notorious slow starts. The observant few would note “that if ever Steve gets a decent start the top riders had better look out!”. That day finally came in 1997, when he was 2nd in the National Championships at Sutton Park, followed by 3rd in 1998 and finally the big one in 1999, when he stood on the top step of the podium to receive his gold medal and the coveted jersey of National Champion, much to the delight of the vocal and rather partisan local crowd. The other two podium places were taken by Nick Craig and Barrie Clarke.
Steve represented Great Britain at the World Championships during these years, where he put his outstanding bike handling skills to good use on the ice and snow in both Munich (Germany) and Spisska Teplica (Slovakia) where he was the top British finisher in 26th and 21st place respectively.
Those bike handling skills were instilled in Steve by Ralph Digges, who would coach him around the tricky adverse cambers and rooty drops in the woodland at the back of Halesowen track. Steve’s favourite courses were the old-fashioned wooded ones – the aforementioned Kenilworth Common, Pitcheroak Woods in Redditch and Sutton Park. In those days in local events all senior categories raced on the course together and he would fly through lapped riders in wooded singletrack finding the most impossible overtaking spots without ever being less than courteous or baulking a slower rider – and seeming not to slow down at all.
Steve’s last appearance on a National Championship elite podium was in 2001, when he was second on a new and more open course in Sutton Park. He also rode another two World Championships in Tabor (Czech Republic, more snow) and the famous course at Zolder (Belgium).
When racing league events at this time, Steve would self-impose a 2-minute handicap on himself at the start before flying through the whole field to win anyway. This wasn’t him showing off, that just wasn’t his nature, he simply wanted to ensure he got a challenging enough workout when he was so much better than the rest of the field.
During the early 1990s Steve also raced in the burgeoning MTB scene, but, whilst he posted some good results, he was never as at home on fat tyres as he was riding cyclocross.
Steve moved on from the Halesowen A&CC to join the M.I. Race Team, managed by Mick Ives, where he stayed for over 20 years. Mick remembers him as “by far the easiest and best rider to manage – he was like my brother.” Our thoughts are also with Mick.
Whilst Steve’s racing results were outstanding and way beyond the dreams of most league participants, he was always a local rider at heart. As he transitioned into the veterans then grand veterans categories, he would more frequently choose WMCCL events rather than chasing around the country. He never accepted he was anything special, he would brush off any compliments with a short “there’s lots of others as good as me”. He didn’t know he was a role model for a whole generation of young riders who grew up idolising him.
We will miss him because he was one of us, someone who loved our quirky sport just like we do.
Isla Rowntree – on behalf of the WMCCL and all its members past and present.