Fraser MacMaster. Legend. Hairy legs and all.

Fraser MacMaster. Legend. Hairy legs and all.

PRO Never Dies

by / / 27 posts

I love discovering things about people who I think I know. Maybe it’s a work colleague or friend of a friend who you run into once a month, maybe every week, and as the relationship lengthens and develops you pick up a nugget of information here and there. Sometimes a mutual acquaintance will proffer an anecdote, or if they’re talking about me to someone else, more than likely an embarrassing story of drunken debauchery. (I swear, it was like that when I got there.)

Moving to a new city, or in my case a whole new country is a constant learning curve; the culture, the streets, where the best rides are, and the people. As you go along, you soon self-seed who you want to hang out with, those who you like to have a chat with when you run into them occasionally, and others to avoid like a saddle sore on race day. Luckily, the latter are few and far between.

When I arrived in Wellington I was fortunate enough to land a job in a bike shop that was staffed by a good bunch of guys and a boss who was on the right level. Eight years later, I count them as good friends… we socialise outside of work hours, go riding and enjoy a beer after. As is the norm, sales reps would arrive either regularly or sporadically, and when a departing rep came in one day with his successor in tow, a new friendship was made. Fraser seemed like a regular kind of bloke, and on subsequent visits more of his cycling past was revealed. One night while watching television, an advert for Subway came on, featuring the cycling team they sponsored munching on their favourite sandwiches. I recognised the tall figure, espousing his preference for the chicken and mayo or whatever he was getting paid to love. So, he was a pretty handy rider then.

Turns out that he in fact had won a few big races in NZ, including setting the race record at the K2, a race that involves a lot of climbing over its 200km parcours. A pretty handy rider indeed. Then I discovered he was a former National Road champion, and had spent a few years in Europe in a 2nd or 3rd division squad or two, and was a Commonwealth Games rep on the track. Of course, Fraser never told me any of this, he was just another bloke who’d had a crack and then quietly settled back into a more normal life on return, giving away the serious side of Cycling to just enjoy it on a level we can all relate to. We would ride together maybe a couple of times a year, and always he would be ‘not very fit’ which in an ex-Pro’s parlance usually means able to crush fools like me at will. But never was I crushed by Fraser… still, I’d take any opportunity to beat him up a climb or just to the coffee shop. He never made anything of it at all, when in all reality he could probably break me with a leg tied behind his back.

As the years rolled by, my fitness would come and go, where his was seemingly just going. When I spotted an old fan card in another ex-legend’s shop, it was with some mirth that I read the rider stats printed on it, and the photo of a somewhat slimline and longer-haired version of the guy I now knew and counted as a good mate. With a bit of prodding over Friday night beers, the back-story was piecing together, and some anecdotes were finally forthcoming. Dude was a pretty handy rider indeed. Still, every time I’d ask if he was riding, the answer would usually be an emphatic ‘no’. A few months ago, Fraser moved on from his post as the Shimano rep, and a life of renovation and yard work awaited while he mulled over his next move. With a bit of extra time on his hands, he rediscovered the bike and was spending a bit more time turning the pedals. Then the reveal; “I’m doing some racing.” This was big. MacMaster was back.

Slideshow:
Fullscreen:

It’s a given that when you lose fitness, someone else will be gaining it. On those early rides, the social ones like Welli-Roubaix and the Revolution Xmas ride, there weren’t many times when Fraser would be the crusher and not the crushee. Last weekend, when neither of us made the Xmas ride but fronted up later for the beers, we tentatively arranged for a cruise the next day. At a time when I should be logging the kms to prepare for Keepers Tour, instead the festive season, deadlines and a couple of big nights of live music were conspiring against me, or rather me against myself. As early as the first hill I could see that the tables were definitely turned, and I’d be hanging on for dear life when normally I’d be one of the first to any summit. In a way though, I was glad that my friend had rediscovered his love for riding a bike and was a wake-up call for my own ambitions come the Euro spring.

As he turned gears twice as big as mine with minimal effort, the stories of being in 150km breakaways with the likes of Jens Heppner or working over the climbers in the Tour of Austria or Poland or Belarus reminded me just who I was lucky enough to be riding alongside. Instead of dropping our arses on the final big climb of the ride, Fraser constantly asked if the pace was ok as he towed us to the top. It was, otherwise I wouldn’t have been anywhere near his wheel. Like a true Aussie bastard trying to one-up a Kiwi at any opportunity, I drew alongside as we neared the last few switchbacks, and instead of putting me back in my place, I felt a hand on the small of my back and my pace double; Of course, I didn’t expect any help, and told him that was unnecessary, before using his generosity to bury him as the line approached. Not even a hint of contempt from the old Pro, just let the unfit old bloke have his perceived glory and even compliment me on my descending on the other side.

That’s a true champion right there. One I’m glad to call a friend, even if I’ll seize any chance to take a hollow victory from him.

// Awesome Kiwi Guys

  1. Sorry about the shitty photo album… I can’t seem to fix the sizing and @frank has possibly been kidnapped. Here’s the offending photos of a slimmer, more coiffed Fraser…

  2. Love the name on this… “Mac Master Fraser”

  3. shaved legs always look better @brett

  4. Nice story. The cap and lack of gloves iare a bit of a giveaway aren’t they?

  5. Nice words on a man who is the very dictionary definition of Champion.

  6. Yeah ferchrisssakes can you make him shave his fricken legs.

    Frasier’s a great guy, that’s a really nice write up Bretto.

    One nice thing I noticed once riding with Frasier, we were in a bunch heading back into town at a high clip, he pulls out of the pace line, blows the snot rockets, and pulls back in at around 40 ks an hour as smooth as silk.

    It’s fucken weird what you remember about some people.

  7. Great story! Fraser sounds like a class act all round.Look at him on the bike – you can just tell he knows what he’s doing, you just know.

  8. Great article, i really enjoyed that. Is he really putting the hours in now, or is it just natural ability that is allowing him to regain his fitness so quickly?

  9. I love this article.

    What an awesome story of days of yore and the love of cycling still. Only the firm knowledge in his own capabilities enables him to be this relaxed and to let you have your moment in the sun but what a great guy for being that way.

  10. @wiscot

    Great story! Fraser sounds like a class act all round.Look at him on the bike – you can just tell he knows what he’s doing, you just know.

    Yup, I took one look at the lead photo and thought, “Which Follower is that? He looks fuckin’ great…” Oh, it’s a former PRO. Now I get it.

  11. Nice Avanti kit.

  12. Gotta love truly accomplished people who act like they’re regular blokes. Not enough of these types around but, if you find one, stick around.

    Great story, Brett!

  13. Had the pleasure of riding a few of the North Island Team races this spring with Fraser, while he still is a while away from top form, these guy’s who have ridden at a high level never seem to lose that top end speed, he was basically our uber domestique, he knew what was going on or he would go and find out, take care of anyone who needed help, and when asked to drive the peleton look out if you weren’t in position, being gapped at 60+ is no fun!

  14. Pro’s like small bikes don’t they? I see pictures of Cancellara and think bike is way too small. And I’m looking at this picture and something’s just not right… And I swear it looks kinda like my daughter on her 24″ right as she had outgrown the bike and ready to move on. Not that this cat looks like my daughter… no, that’s not it. It’s that the bike looks a tad too small. Ah well, what do I know? never mind… cheers all

  15. @minion

    Yeah ferchrisssakes can you make him shave his fricken legs.

    Frasier’s a great guy, that’s a really nice write up Bretto.

    One nice thing I noticed once riding with Frasier, we were in a bunch heading back into town at a high clip, he pulls out of the pace line, blows the snot rockets, and pulls back in at around 40 ks an hour as smooth as silk.

    It’s fucken weird what you remember about some people.

    He’s shaving the legs again too, although on Sunday he has some stubble going on… and a full beard which he’s been cultivating a while now. Unemployment seems to suit him well!

    And the snot rocket technique is still in full effect…

  16. @piwakawaka

    Had the pleasure of riding a few of the North Island Team races this spring with Fraser, while he still is a while away from top form, these guy’s who have ridden at a high level never seem to lose that top end speed, he was basically our uber domestique, he knew what was going on or he would go and find out, take care of anyone who needed help, and when asked to drive the peleton look out if you weren’t in position, being gapped at 60+ is no fun!

    His stories of late have mainly been about “hanging on to the back of the bunch for grim life” or “pulling out after 40ks when I got dropped”. Usually with a little chuckle, the kind that says “when I’m fit though, these guys better look out.”

  17. @wilburrox

    Pro’s like small bikes don’t they? I see pictures of Cancellara and think bike is way too small. And I’m looking at this picture and something’s just not right… And I swear it looks kinda like my daughter on her 24″³ right as she had outgrown the bike and ready to move on. Not that this cat looks like my daughter… no, that’s not it. It’s that the bike looks a tad too small. Ah well, what do I know? never mind… cheers all

    I saw some pix of Cancellara on his new bike. I swear they’re getting smaller by the year . . .

  18. @Ron

    Gotta love truly accomplished people who act like they’re regular blokes. Not enough of these types around but, if you find one, stick around.

    Great story, Brett!

    Yep, just like you never see a SEAL pick a fight in a bar. Though it’s lots of fun when a blowhard does…

  19. Yeah there’s a guy here in Adelaide who’s had similar racing experience before hanging up the pro-racing and starting his own business running cycling tours in Europe for 6mths a year & skills/training sessions back in Adelaide for the other 6.

    Nicest bloke you’ll meet when he’s in coaching mode, but put a goal in his sights & he’s still pretty handy.

  20. We have an ex NRS pro in our bunch. He’s still young and was going places but he got sick and had to give it away. Sometimes I feel sorry for the bloke… no one to give him a run for his money in these parts (although we try) but then I race with him and the sympathy evaporates! I’ve been given a couple of pushes nearing the crests of hills, and even within a race (no advantage gained – just forced me to pull the next turn as I was dragging my heels). He is a sprinter, and they can come as a surprise and the power is startling.I am generally already at max and starting to fade fading whilst this guy unleashes the guns with full power to the small of my back! Boom! Nearly took me off the first time he did it.

  21. When I was racing during my collegiete days a “old pro” offered training advice to some member of our team. Riding with him was quite an experience. He was well into his 50s at the time and honestly, could best all of us climbing and sprinting. He was also a hard ass. Tough love was his nature and the way he learned the trade. I distinctly remember a very long and hilly training ride he prepared for us. He was not kind that day. The third, and second to the last climb of the day was 19 km. He set the pace and one by one we began to shatter. I, at his side with 5 km to go as the pitch increased, was in the moment and feeling pretty well and then his hand reached down – click, click. He looked me in the eyes with an expression that read your turn. I shifted up once, then again. Within seconds I was off his wheel. Meter by meter I fell away as he rode out of sight in the saddle. I was left to wonder how?

    That Spring I learned many lessons. Particularly, that “pro” was another word for superhuman.

  22. Reminds me of Allan Iacuone. 1994. Australian Champion, raced Europe etc. In 2010 they did a “Where are they now” story on him and he was happily running a dog-walking service and riding a bit for fun: http://cyclingtips.com.au/2010/11/where-are-they-now-allan-iacuone/

    Then this happened: http://cyclingtips.com.au/2013/08/iacuone-jacobs-claim-inaugural-national-cyclo-cross-titles/

  23. @brett. Fuck me I’d settle for a set of those never was legs Brett. Guntastic!

  24. @The Grande Fondue Alby then decided for his next trick he’d stick himself in the main break at the nationals road race last year, stayed with the trade team pros til about 4 laps to go in his early 40’s…

  25. I was out last winter when a genial rider drifted alongside three of us and asked if we would mind if he rode with the group.

    His kit was cobbled together, but it turned out he had a bit of history racing in Belgium. And hell, he was fast – he drove it on the front for about three hours, and then we lost him when we got overtaken and he went to join the break up the road. The only thing was that we had actually been overtaken by a car.

  26. This is why I don’t worry too much about trying to be PRO. The difference is truly too great.

  27. That’s great, Brett – hopefully either he’ll drag you or you’ll drag him up this (Taranaki) way for the Queen’s Birthday Tour or the Mountain Race next year…

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar