As Litespeed celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, we look back on some of the athletes that helped make Litespeed the leader in titanium bike manufacturing world over. And it was one of the most powerful sprinters in road racing and time trialing history—American Steve Hegg—who was one of those who truly put our bikes to the test and put them on the podium of races across North America in the 1990s.
Steve Hegg has always been a bit of a joker; always friendly, a bit mischievous, and definitely the life of the party. But there was one time he was a junkyard bulldog, all the BS ceased, and he was not to be messed with: when there was a start line and a finish line. Time trial, road stage race, circuit race, criterium, if there was a start, a finish and a purse, he was all-in.
“Man, nothing gave me a bigger kick than getting out there and mixing it up,” Hegg remembers.
Hegg burst onto the global scene during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, where he won the gold medal in the 4000-meter individual pursuit, as well as the 4000-meter team pursuit.
Olympic gold would serve as a springboard for his career. He became a three-time winner of the U.S. National time trial championships, earning him the opportunity to wear the U.S. colors in competition for those years.
A powerful finisher, Hegg was one of the most feared cyclists in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Whether he was battling Barr Bowen with Subaru-Montgomery, Fred Rodriguez and Norm Alvis with Saturn or Lance Armstrong, Steve Larsen and Andy Bishop of the Motorola team, he was gonna be in the mix. And quite often, he won.
Hegg joined the Chevrolet-L.A. Sheriff domestic pro road team in 1993 and would be among a strong team from 1993 through 1996 to ride Litespeed bikes. Joined by Malcom Elliott, Jeff Pierce, Scott Moninger and Jamie Paolinetti, in their lime green and yellow kits, they likened themselves to the Bad News Bears. And they were just find with that.
“You had these big teams like Subaru-Montgomery with these deep rosters and budgets with massive support,” he recalls. “We were kinda the underdogs at most races, but man, we loved showing up the bigger teams.” Whether it was the Thrift Drug Classic, the Redlands Classic in California or the Tour of China, he was finding the podium through the '90s.
While most of the Litespeed Ultimate models the team rode were stock, Hegg would work with current Litespeed engineer Brad DeVaney on a few tweaks he wanted in his bikes. He'd throw his Scott Rake aero drop clip ons on, and go—hard.
“It wasn’t much, but those guys like Brad were so easy with make the changes—it was great,” Hegg says.
But the 1996 Atlanta Olympics time trials sits in his craw—memorable for all the wrong reasons.
He was slated to compete with American teammate Lance Armstrong in the individual time trial. Wanting the fastest possible setup, he opted to run double disc wheels—disc rear wheel, and disc front. A national champ track racer, he figured it would provide a bit of aero advantage over the other riders, running shallow front aero wheels.
Then It began raining on the back half of the course, and the wet conditions putting his double disc advantage firmly into the “disadvantage” category.
Photo: Frank Steele
“I had my TT bike all set up, but I didn’t get the word that the course was hilly. I saw Miguel Indurain and Abraham Olano with a completely different setup than I had, and I was like, ‘oh man.’ Then it started raining—and there went my advantage,” Hegg says with a laugh. “You could see all the other guys just able to go harder knowing they could control the bike a bit better in the wet.”
He would end up finishing a respectable 16th, while Indurain would go on to win gold that year.
“My mom was at the finish and she’s like ‘why are you soaking wet?’” Hegg says. “I was like ‘it’s because it’s pouring on the other side of the course!’”
Hegg would finish his racing career in 2000, and still cruises the San Diego and Orange County local road scene like a great white shark, keeping area riders in check.
“Ah, I’ll never stop riding! Never!” he says with in his gruff tone. My pro career was great, but just being able to ride in Southern California, nothing beats it.