Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar


Matt Kelly as seen in an ad for Lemond bikes, Rolf wheels, and Icon bars/stems: VeloNews, March 1, 1999

A trip down memory lane to Poprad, Slovakia…

Hoopty bike:
1999 Junior Men Cyclocross World Champion Matt Kelly is likely the first and last person to win a world title on clincher tires (and Trek’s house-brand Icon bars and stem have likely never seen another world title, either). No Dugasts here! Check it out–he’s sporting a Michelin Mud on the front and a Ritchey Speedmax on the rear. And equally as low tech is Kelly’s steel 853 Lemond frame, likely simply one of the Lemond road frames with a ‘cross fork plus a set of cantilever bosses welded on for the rear brake. For the 1998/1999 ‘cross season, Lemond did not offer a ‘cross bike to the public–this is a one-off supplied to Kelly. Look at the cable routing, these are most definitely not ‘cross friendly with both derailleur cables routed along the downtube and the rear brake routing designed for a road caliper brake. And I bet the reason he’s sporting a Speedmax rear tire instead of a Michelin is that the Michelins are too fat to fit in the road chain stays, while a skinnier Speedmax will just fit (as long as you keep your wheels exquisitely trued).

The Belgian that Kelly outsprinted was Sven Vanthourenhout, who had won each of the 26 cyclocross races he had entered that season. While Vanthourenhout was raging in Europe, Kelly had a comparatively sparse American ‘cross schedule. In fact, the bulk of his training was done in the basement of his Wisconsin home on the trainer. It was Rocky vs. Drago in Poprad, and the underdog American defied logic and precedent to emerge with a rainbow-striped jersey.

Hoopty threads:
“Hey bitches, you go to ‘cross worlds with the skinsuits you have, not the skinsuits you might want or wish to have.”–Performance Bicycle management

Team issue Performance skinsuits sucked ass in cold weather. In steps Verge…

“It was cold in Poprad, Slovakia during the recent [1999] world cyclocross championships. It was so cold that the official U.S. team uniforms brought by the team proved woefully inadequate. Fortunately, a couple of ‘locals’ knew just how cold it would be in Poprad and, about a week before the event, started constructiong long-sleeved, knicker skinsuits at their Polish clothing factory. Michael Magur and Brad Hogan, who own the Poland-based Verge Sport, carefully reproduced the graphics on the American uniforms–including all of the sponsor’s logos–and set off for a day-long winter drive from Poland to Poprad. The trip concluded with a treacherous three-hour drive on a snow-covered single-lane road over the Tatra Mountains. No guard rails and lots of snow.” VeloNews, March 1, 1999.

Hoopty pit crew:
I forgot about this story from Poprad–how a Frenchman in the espoir race got screwed by his pit team. A Frenchman named John Gadret. On the final lap Gadret had his silver medal wrapped up–Wellens was out of reach about 1 minute in front of Gadret and the duo of Tim Johnson and Tom Vannoppen were about 40 seconds behind Gadret thinking they were duking it out for bronze. Gadret’s pit crew thought he was home free, too, and abandoned their post at the second pit and ran to the finish line to greet their silver medalist to-be. Alas, Gadret suffered a flat just before the second pit and he rolled into that pit area expecting a smooth bike change to carry him over the final kilometer. To his horror, there were no French mechanics or bikes to be had–he had to bum a wheel off neutral support after his frantic search for his chain-smoking compatriots came up empty. A weeping Gadret crossed the line in 5th place, and if he wasn’t so freaky skinny and freaky cold he likely would have given his slacker pit crew a world-class beat down.

Comments (10) to “Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar”

  1. Everybody loves an unexpected upset and I really like the Matt Kelly story. I guess he dropped out of cycling for a while after that.

  2. You know Sven Vanthourenhout felt like crawling in a hole after getting the ultimate beat-down by and unknown American. Also shows you don’t need a $4000 bike with $200 tubulars to to win.

  3. First of all GREAT site!! Redaing through your posts, I am smiling as nuances only a bike geek could get across, actually get across. Very rad.

    I remember Kelly in the 99 Super Cup/Nats in at the Presideo in SF I raced in. Junior phenom. Cross hadn’t even really been exposed yet but he was sort of a rock star already. I’d love to see him get back (more) on the horse.

    About Sven Van, I’m glad that little beeatch got smacked that day. It actually set the precedent of him getting smacked down by De Clerq the Wellens then THE Sven.

  4. funny thing, matt still rocks that bike on the road on occasion…rust spots and all.

  5. I never realised that the name of lemond’s cyclocross bike was so legitimate!

  6. …marko &/or anyone…w/ cross season again upon us (yah !) i was just reading this post from the last go-round & wondering if anybody can confirm who actually made that ‘lemond’ frameset ???…i believe (& i could be wrong) that the fork & frame were made by two separate entities (neither of them ‘trek’) & badged as a ‘lemond’…as peter stated, they didn’t build a cross bike till after young mr.kelly’s great win…

    …i rode a steel frame / aluminium fork ‘poprad’ for a coupla years, & while it basically handled well, that fork was nasty, nasty…i tend to ride a cross bike rather than a mountain bike & under braking, that alu fork chattered & flexed like a beatch…& ya, don’t even ask, my headset was adjusted properly…

  7. When my husband brought back his USA-issue skinsuit from 2006 Worlds in Zeddam, I swear it smelt like it had been mouldering in a box for a decade. Imagine my surprise when I saw your picture (and description) of Matt Kelly’s skinsuit from 8 years earlier. It looks suspiciously similar. Hope to see you at Koksijde!

  8. as far as i know, matt’s bike was indeed made in waterloo, just a preproduction version. not too sure on the fork, i seem to remember hearing something about it being an IF.

  9. So, is this why the Lemond bike is called Poprad?

  10. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I googled Matt Kelly to confirm something about him and found this post.

    The best part of the day for me was when Euro God Frischknect came into the hut after the Junior race, before the Elite start. After a quick “Congrats” - Matt was still in protocol - he was all about anyone who could tell him the tire pressure that Matt used. The Swiss looking for help from the US - that weekend changed a lot.

Post a Comment
(Never published)