The official unofficial smart-ass of 2012 masters ‘cross Worlds

A quick quiz. Who has two thumbs, used to write a blog, and is now the official unofficial smart-ass and John Gadret worshiper of 2012 masters ‘cross Worlds?


I was seeking some clarification about the seeding heats which several age groups at the now-in-progress UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships (the first EVER ‘cross world championship of any kind held outside of Europe, hosted by Louisville, Kentucky) had to contest prior to their actual world title race, which brought me to the event’s technical guide.

And there it is on page 2’s “Dear Racer” introduction, for all of the masters ‘cross universe to peruse, a link to my very own ode to America’s only ‘cross world champion: Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar, cited as “a fun read” by masters ‘cross Worlds organisers Joan Hanscom and Bruce Fina.

Page 2 from the 2012 UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships tech guide

I don’t know if some lowly staffer has punked the tech guide, or if the Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar decision indeed came down from on high, but it was, to say the least, a surprise of epic proportion.

I had no earthly idea this would be included, and if I had I’d be in Louisville right now, in a booth, autographing tech guides and prepping all within earshot for the 2013 arrival of his freakiness, John Gadret, to Eva Bandman Park for the full-on elite ‘cross Worlds next year, where I can assure you he won’t again be abandoned by his chain-smoking pit crew on the last lap if he’s got a medal in his sights.

And I’d also be laughing, because a certain former employer of mine, with a flying P logo, gets some not-so-nice PR about its total ineptitude when it came to supplying US team edition kits for the Poprad, Slovakia world championships. D’oh!

One way or another I’ll be in Louisville next year for ‘cross worlds, and maybe there will indeed be a Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar booth containing me, living legend Matt Kelly, his rusty LeMond, and his rainbow jersey to inspire our compatriots to bring home the gold in what will likely be the only ‘cross world championships hosted in the United States for some time.

Mike Friedman-Low Budget Superstar

Mike Friedman's license plate...attached to his bike during Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé/

Without a doubt, this has to be the first time a personalized license plate equipped rig rocked a Euro semi-classic. I wonder what was going through the minds of Friedman’s Euro Het Volk break companions every time he rotated through allowing a glimpse of “MEATBALL” beneath the saddle. Between the argyle, the moustaches, and now the personalized plate, Team Slipstream is definitely raising eyebrows in cycling-mad Flanders. And how long will it take for Slipstream’s trickle down style-omics to appear at one’s local Saturday morning world championship?

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.

Bart Bowen-Low Budget Superstar

Bart Bowen on his way to 32nd place in the 2000 World Cyclocross Championships
Photographer: J.S. McElvery

Sint-Michielsgestel, the Netherlands | January 30, 2000

“STI? I don’t need no stinkin’ STI.”

Let’s all sing praises for Bart Bowen, the last man to rock the bar-end shifters in a mass start world championship event. And bonus style points for the front brake cable treatment. In Bowen’s quest for the perfect brake cable alignment, but a move likely to make any stem manufacturer cringe, the front brake cable has been routed through his stem via a pair of precisely drilled holes in the top and bottom. It’s always a challenge for riders on the smaller side to cleanly route their front brake cable without abrupt or sharp kinks in the housing and the through-the-stem option provides the smoothest cable pull for the bold and those handy with a drill.

And what of the race? Bowen finished 32nd on a day better known for Sven Nijs inciting the wrath of Belgium by putting his Rabobank trade team fealty to Dutchman Richard Groenendaal above national allegiance to fellow Belgian Mario de Clercq.

Sean Kelly-Low Budget Superstar

Sean Kelly on the 1984 Liege-Bastogne-Liege podium
Sean Kelly | Liège-Bastogne-Liège podium | 04.15.1984
Seth Goltzer photo

Because nothing says I’m a penny pinching hardman like winning La Doyenne with shoes held snug with a liberal application of duct tape. I bet if Kelly had his way, he would have figured out some means to nail Look cleats on to the bottom of those shoes for the latter years of his career, that is if the they hadn’t just out-and-out vaporized into leather dust from Kelly’s wear and tear. I’m sure he shed a tear (just one solitary tear…deep in the heart of Flanders while riding alone in the rain so nobody could tell Kelly had a soft side) when they finally gave up the ghost.

And my god…those legs are unreal. Hewn from tens of thousands of miles of primeval suffering, still sporting a healthy layer of Belgian road grime. Kelly could have torched everyone at Liege wearing flip-flops and riding a Huffy.

Oscar Freire - “I Jam Econo”

Reason #473 why Oscar Freire is my hero:

Because nothing says PRO quite like…
Oscar Freire

…a mini-pump duct-taped to the top tube of your Colnago Extreme Power:
Oscar Freire's mini-pump
Photographer: Phil O’Connor | Procycling, April 2007, pg. 42

Bobke Strut: Hey Oscar, why not a mini-pump bracket?
Oscar Freire: Well…I think Ernesto Colnago would crap his pants if one of those brackets appeared on my ride.
BS: And duct tape is ok?
OF: Hell yeah.
BS: What about jersey pockets?
OF: But that would mess up the exquisite lines of my kit. Plus, don’t you know that guys like me don’t have functioning pockets? They’re sewn shut, just there for show. If I need something to eat, I just stop at somebody’s house. Everyone in Torrelavega knows Oscar Freire. If I need a tube, I flag down a fellow cyclist and he gives me his. If he doesn’t have a spare tube, then I just take one out of his wheel. Then he gets on the cell and calls to get picked up.
BS: Then why bother with the mini-pump? Wouldn’t said rider have a pump you could scam, too?
OF: I need it to whack smart-ass journalists upside the head. No more questions from you…

I’m not sure what’s going on in Spain these days. Igor Astarloa and Alejandro Valverde definitely have unique theories regarding training techniques, but Oscar Freire’s got them beat hands-down when it comes to his no-tech, just-give-me-my-brother-on-a-scooter workout regimen. If Oscar Freire is healthy and he can get in a solid two two-week block of motorpacing, there’s not a one-day race in the world (barring a TT up Mt. Ventoux) that Freire isn’t capable of winning. The man is a total freak of nature. And just a plain freak.

The World According to Oscar
On using an SRM: “Are you trying to turn me into one of those crazy riders or what?”
Paris-Roubaix: “Roubaix is a nice race to watch on TV, but not to ride…We were doing 60kph as we rode into the [Arenberg] forest and never in my life would I have thought we were going to turn down that road.”
Rainy training rides: “Stay at home and ride the rollers”
Training volume: “I go well with relatively little training…if I did as much as Erik Zabel I wouldn’t win anything”

Just read that Procycling interview (April 2007 issue) and drop your jaw in awe…

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.