The 7-Eleven Cycling Team, later the Motorola Cycling Team, was a professional cycling team founded in the U.S. in 1981 by Jim Ochowicz, a former U.S. Olympic cyclist. The team lasted 16 years, under the sponsorship of 7-Eleven through 1990 and then Motorola from 1990 through 1996….which from 1989 to 1996 it rode on Eddy Merckx bikes.
7-Eleven was formed as an amateur cycling team in 1981 by Ochowicz….who was a 29-year-old former Olympic cyclist from the U.S. that was married to Olympic speed skating gold medalist Sheila Young…. when Ochowicz had managed the U.S. national speed-skating team….and was friends with Eric and Beth Heiden….who were both excellent cyclists as well as champion speed skaters. Ochowicz managed to get sponsorship from the Southland Corporation, owners of the 7-Eleven convenience-store chain, and bicycle manufacturer Schwinn to form an amateur team.
Of the seven men on the inaugural 7-Eleven-Schwinn team racing in 1981, Eric Heiden….who swept the gold medals in speed skating in the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics….was the captain and the best known….with the other Americans being Jeff Bradley, Greg Demgen, Bradley Davies, Tom Schuler, Danny Van Haute and Roger Young (Ochowicz’s brother-in-law)….as they were joined by Canadian Ron Hayman.
Although Schwinn dropped out as a co-sponsor in 1982, 7-Eleven added Davis Phinney, Ron Kiefel and Canadian Alex Stieda to the team…..when the all-amateur 7-Eleven team was featured in the 1985 movie American Flyers starring Kevin Costner. The 1986 Cycling Media Guide published for the 1986 World Championships lists Jeff Bradley, Chris Carmichael, Alexi Grewal, Eric Heiden, Ron Kiefel, Davis Phinney, Bob Roll, Tom Schuler, Doug Shapiro and Alex Stieda with an additional group of amateur men on the team including Frankie Andreu, Curt Harnett, David Lettieri, Robert Mathis, Leonard “Harvey” Nitz and Russell Scott…..as Southland continued its commitment by sponsoring the cycling venue at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles….where nine Americans won cycling medals.
In 1985, Ochowitz changed the men’s team’s status to professional…..and the team went to Europe with an initial roster of members including Olympic gold medalists Alexi Grewal and Heiden, Olympic bronze medalists Phinney and Kiefel, Bradley, Schuler, Hayman, Stieda, and Chris Carmichael. When the team received an invitation to the 1985 Giro d’Italia….which is one of the Grand Tours of Europe…..that is when a young American cyclist based in Europe named Andrew Hampsten was added to the team under a 30-day contract for the race. After both Kiefel and Hampsten stunningly won stages during the Giro…..while becoming the first American stage winners ever at a Grand Tour…..7-Eleven was invited to the 1986 Tour de France as seen in this video herewith…..and became one of the major cycling teams for the next decade. Ochowicz disbanded the team after the 1996 season, when Motorola decided to discontinue sponsorship.