Scottish Cyclist: Ian Steel

Ian Steel is one of Scotlands greatest ever cyclists. I wanted to put him in my Top 10 of all time back when I started this blog, but I didn’t know enough about him. Since then I have found more has made me come to realise his achievements.

A brilliant article in Rouleur edition 18 by Herbie Sykes and Ben Ingham. A thoroughly researched story of the man’s life and cycling career, with memories direct from the horse’s mouth.

What is remarkable is that the inspiration cyclists in Britain took from Ian Steel’s win in the 1952 Peace Race (Warsaw-Berlin-Prague), the hardest amateur race in the world at the time, was responsible for the emergence of road racing over here. Up until that point the National Cycling Union ruled the roost- only time trialling was allowed and mass start road races did not take place. Soon afterwards, the British League of Racing Cyclists started up and road racing began to get established in Britain.

1951 – Age 22, Pattern maker, 1st SCU Championship Road Race 1951, 1st West Scotland Championship Road Race 1951, 1st Glasgow Wheelers RR, 1st Edinburgh Comet RR 1951, 1st Glasgow Wheelers 25-mile 1951, 1st Tour of the Chilterns 1951

1952 – (Independent). There can be no doubt that this six-foot Scotsman is the outstanding British road cyclist of the century. He leapt to fame in the first 1951 Tour of Britain, when he scored a brilliant win. This year he went to the Continent, and beat the finest amateur and independent Continental riders on their own ground, finishing on top in the tremendously gruelling Warsaw-Berlin-Prague stage race. Shortly after, he went to France, and startled the Continentals by finishing a very close 2nd in the Paris-Lens classic road race. He has been time trial and road race champion of Scotland, and is a winner of the Tour of the Chilterns, besides his many other successes. A cycle-frame builder, Ian is aged 23. [1]

1953 – (Independent). This six-foot, unassuming Scot will always be remembered for his brilliant win in the first Daily Express Tour of Britain, and for his equally sensational victory in the gruelling Warsaw-Berlin-Prague race later that year. Also finished as leading British rider in this year’s Six Provinces race. He is the current British road race champion, and is captain of his team. He is 24 years old. [24]

1955 – 25 years. Rode in Tour de France and Tour of Spain, 1955. National Road Race Champion, 1953. 1st Warsaw-Berlin-Prague. 1st Tour of Britain, 1951.

I got the biography and palmares information from, a site with a pretty phenomenal archive of cycling race information.

The Ian Steel article in Rouleur 18 is highly recommended, and to top it off you get a great piece on climbing by Robert Millar.