Al Toefield was said to have paid out of his own pocket for the resurfacing of the 400-meter Kissena track in Queens, New York, a gesture consistent with the dedication he brought to cycling as he helped pave the way for many riders in local, national, and world competitions.
For more than a half-century, from the 1940s until he died in 1989, Toefield raced for New York’s Century Road Club, co-founded the Kissena Cycling Club, owned a bike shop, and served as an official in local and national arenas. He played a critical role as member of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Cycling Committee between 1965 and 1967. U.S. cyclists had last won medals in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and cycling was in jeopardy of being replaced on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s menu of sports. Toefield raised the credibility of U.S. cycling in the late 1960s by creating the Army cycling team, which served as the foundation for today’s U.S. Cycling Federation national team.
Toefield, a career New York City police officer, knew how to persuade people to see things his way. He influenced Pentagon officials to take a widely-scattered Special Services program already in place and turn it into a centrally-based official U.S. Army Cycling Team for the public relations benefit during the increasingly unpopular Vietnam War, then encouraged draft-eligible top riders to enlist. His efforts with the team paid off in 1967 when U.S. riders won four medals in the PanAm Games in Winnepeg, Canada. In 1968, Army cycling team member Jack Simes III won a silver medal in the world championships kilometer event in Montevideo, Uruguay, the first medal a U.S. cyclist had won in world championships in 19 years.
Toefield headed the Amateur Bicycle League of America (predecessor to USCF) team that went to the 1969 world championships in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Audrey McElmury Levonas won the women’s world championship road race―becoming the first American to win a world road title.
In Toefield’s last year as ABL president, John Howard of the Army cycling team triumphed in the 1971 PanAm Games road race of 200 kilometers in Cali, Columbia. Under Toefield’s direction, U.S. men and women cyclists were earning international respect.
(Courtesy - Peter Joffre Nye)