Matt Eaton-Low Budget Superstar
June 18, 1983 issue of Cycling
It’s not every day that a bike festooned with Bike Nashbar graphics wins a national tour. In fact, there’s only one day: June 4, 1983 in Blackpool, England…the day that Matt Eaton donned the final leader’s jersey of the Milk Race having protected his slender 16 second lead over Swede Stefan Brykt. I remember Nashbar selling to the public an identical version of the very bike Matt Eaton rode to victory in the Milk Race about a month later. It was a straight-up, no nonsense rig with Columbus tubing, Campy Super Record components, and Cinelli bars/stem. And it was exceptionally affordable if you were thick-skinned enough to take the heat from your snob peers at the Saturday morning world championships averse to all things Nashbar. Several other bikes of the 1980s peloton were similarly decked out in bargain basement brand stickers (7-Eleven on “Murray” and “Huffy”, La Vie Claire on “Huffy”). And just as Davis Phinney’s Murray was in reality a Serotta and Greg LeMond’s Huffy emerged from the hands of Roland Della Santa, Eaton’s Nashbar special likely had a similar boutiqe pedigree. But from whose shop this Milk Race winning bike was spawned, I just don’t know.
1983 Milk Race fun facts
1) 22 year old Matt Eaton was born in England and moved to the U.S. when he was 12. Still a British citizen, he returned to his native England when he was 17 in order to qualify for the junior world championships but was denied a position. Frustrated, he returned to the U.S. and became an American citizen. Then he made the British cycling establishment look decidedly stupid 5 years later.
2) Eaton’s American teammates: Chris Carmichael, Alexi Grewal, Andy Hampsten, Steve Speaks, Steve Tilford. All finished, and all certainly made names for themselves in the years to come.
3) British speed demon Malcolm Elliott won a record-breaking 6 stages and finished 3rd overall.
4) Amazingly, 24 years later, Malcolm Elliott and Steve Tilford are still rocking it at the upper echelons of competition.
5) Poor Paul Kimmage. He thought he had victory wrapped up for the Ireland national amateur squad when bad luck (an untimely flat, then a crash) during the penultimate stage saw him concede 12 minutes and the lead to Eaton.
6) Matt Eaton won the GC without winning a stage.
7) Current UCI baffoon-in-chief Pat McQuaid was the Irish team’s manager.
The West German amateur squad was managed by the legendary Klaus-Peter Thaler. Thaler had just retired from professional cycling and spent 1983 and 1984 working with the West German national team. With 5 weeks of training in his legs prior to the 1985 world cyclocross championships, Thaler came out of retirement and won a world ‘cross title.