Matt Eaton-Low Budget Superstar

Issue 4789 of Cycling: June 11, 1983Close-up of Eaton's fork
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.
8) 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.

Comments (15) to “Matt Eaton-Low Budget Superstar”

  1. Didn’t 7-Eleven ride Huffies from (at least) 86 to 88? Were they actually something else? Please explain. This has always confused me.

  2. Sebastian-
    I just realized that 7-Eleven rode Huffy-stickered bikes after their Murray days in the late 80s, probably at the same time that you posted your comment. I’m pretty sure that Ben Serotta supplied both the Murray and Huffy edition 7-Eleven team bikes. Greg LeMond had a lengthy allegience to Della Santa, but I’m not sure if the other La Vie Claire bikes were also Della Santas.

  3. Here’s what they rode by year:
    ‘81: Schwinn
    ‘82-84: ??
    ‘85: Murray
    ‘86: Murray (although Serotta became the official supplier in ‘86)
    ‘87: Huffy
    ‘88: Huffy again, but some were Serottas and rumored to also be De Rosa and Landshark (Hampsten rode a Landshark in his Giro win)
    ‘89-’90: Merckx
    ‘91: 7-11 dissolved and became Motorola, also on Merckx bikes.

  4. As a teenager I had the Campy poster of Greg and Bernard going hand in hand across the finish line at Alpe d’Huez in 1986. While I loved the poster, the pubescent bike snob in me loathed the HUFFY head badges.

  5. I know somebody who might know.
    Matt Eaton was the Pride of Renfrew PA.
    The Jersey from that race is at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh PA.

    Peter, you need to check this out. See link above. What do you make of this?

  7. Pete, The spring of ‘83 Matt Eaton traveled to Durham, NC. Stayed in town, trained with us locals. I remember doing a little work on that bike at Bull City Bikes. He was a temperamental but inspiring racer. I remember him going for broke in a local crit and then dropping out. He was putting the fitness together for this performance though.
    As the 80’s progressed there came to be many generic Italian produced frames marketed with American brands like this Nasbar model or made-up Euro-sounding names like Tommasso (the house brand of Ten Speed Drive Imports). They were well made. Nearly all production was going towards investment cast lugs. That simplified production and lowered costs for what was probably close to equal of makes we didn’t turn our nose up at. The difference wasn’t in quality of materials it was more like marketing of hand made against high prduction. I had heard that Ten Speed DI brought in bare frames and painted with Dupont Imron for want of quality control. My early eighties Colnago had a paint-job that went to hell fast.

  8. Quote: Kerry wrote:

    Here’s what they rode by year:
    ‘81: Schwinn
    ‘82-84: ??
    ‘85: Murray
    ‘86: Murray (although Serotta became the official supplier in ‘86)
    ‘87: Huffy
    ‘88: Huffy again, but some were Serottas and rumored to also be De Rosa and Landshark (Hampsten rode a Landshark in his Giro win)
    ‘89-’90: Merckx
    ‘91: 7-11 dissolved and became Motorola, also on Merckx bikes.
    Much of the above is incorrect. As noted previously, Serotta supplied most of the Murray and Huffy frames ridden by 7-Eleven, though there may have been individual exceptions like Andy Hampsten’s Slawta-built Giro bike. Serotta became the official supplier of 7-Eleven in 1983, not 1986. I think it’s extremely unlikely that 7-Eleven was riding any bikes actually built by either Murray or Huffy, as this timeline implies. They were mostly Serottas, as the Serotta website also explains.

  9. Matt Eaton tried to put me in Thomas Craven’s barbeque after the Carolina Cup in 1988. I was 4. It was scary.

  10. Matt’s bike was made by OLMO, ITALY.
    Now afamily heirloom I still have it and won a Masters’ USCF Championship on it in 1984.

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  15. I came across this page while researching a mid 80s rose pink Vitus 979 I picked up decked out with the “Huffy” lettering stickers as pictured above on the fork, seat stays and a chain stay. the bike is equipped with Super record headset and derailleur, and C-Record crankset and down tube shifters.
    this was a high end build back in the day, leads me to believe that it was sponsored riders bike.

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