Santa left a few books under the tree this year, including this one. It has something to do with bikes. How did he know? Santa is watching, so you better be good. For goodness sakes.
Full book title is Team 7-Eleven. How An Unsung Band Of American Cyclists Took On The World - And Won. That's a mouthful, or an eyeful, if you can read silently. Book written by Geoff Drake with Jim Ochowicz. Why am I telling you all this? Just look at the cover, official shot of Andy Hampsten, minus head, for the added bonus. Man, that 7-Eleven team kit looked cool, eh? All aboard the steel Merckx. Makes my old school heart all a flutter...
Enough nonsense, let's get down to some serious reading. Oh yeah, I already read it. And I dug it. I may be a bit biased however, since this stuff is from my era. My serious interest in cycling really took off around 1984, so many of the events and characters from the book, I remember from magazine articles back in the day.
Even so, I'm far from being the Team 7-Eleven expert by any means, so did pick up some knowledge and insight. How the midwest speed skating and cycling scene was the birthplace of it all. Jim Ochowicz built this team from the ground up, during a time when American pro cycling was basically non-existent, on a world level anyway.
Back then, I also didn't realize how Eric Heiden really helped launch the team, via his Olympic speed skating fame. Not being one to milk the limelight, he humbly used his celebrity status to draw attention and money to the team - and cycling itself - something he believed in. Without Ochowicz and Heiden, Team 7-Eleven would have never existed. And the entire landscape of US cycling may have developed differently. Consider that Team 7-Eleven morphed into Team Motorola, then into US Postal, along with the Lance Armstrong era. Team 7-Eleven put a US based pro team on the world map. And that changed the face of pro cycling itself for the better. Well, for US fans anyway. True?
The book takes you on the ride, from the very beginning, with all the famous characters along the way: Davis Phinney, Eric Heiden, Ron Kiefel, Jonathan Boyer, Chris Charmichael, Andy Hampsten, Bob Roll - the list goes on with heros from an earlier time in the sport. At one point, Greg LeMond was signed to ride for 7-Eleven, but the deal fell through. Damn, that would have been something to witness. Reading about the big races of that era, now gone, like the Coors Classic and Tour de Trump, reminded me of flipping through the pages of magazines during the '80s, when this was all new. And of course, when Team 7-Eleven headed to Europe to contest the big ones - like the Giro and the Tour de France. It was truly a fantastic era for cycling. Wanna argue about that?
Also, the corporation of 7-Eleven are heros of this era. At the time, business was booming and money was available to invest. They elected to go with cycling, knowing nothing about the sport. They sponsored various teams, build velodromes, and really helped cycling grow in the US. Without 7-Eleven putting up the dough, US cycling may have never taken off during that era. It was a great chain of events and mix of business and cycling personalities.
Ultimately, what I took away from the book, is what made me a 7-Eleven fan to begin with. This gang of folks took on European cycling in an American way, annoying the old school cycling system. The riders worked as a true team, ate Mexican food, got a little crazy off the bike, blindly went into race situations, pulled off spectacular victories, and experienced embarrassing failures along the way. They went from being the underdogs to a respected pro team in the European peloton. They paved the way. They were the prototype American pro cycling team. They made history while thrilling cycling fans. A very cool story to be celebrated.