The 7-Eleven Cycling Team….which later became 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….and the team lasted 16 years under the sponsorship of 7-Eleven through 1990….and then Motorola from 1990 through 1996….as the team rode on Eddy Merckx bikes from 1989 to 1996.
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…..as 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….when Ochowicz managed to get sponsorship from the Southland Corporation….who were owners of the 7-Eleven convenience-store chain….along with 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 Winter Olympics, was the captain and the best known.
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. Eric Heiden, Olympic bronze medalists Davis Phinney, Ron Kiefel, Jeff Bradley, Doug Schuler, Ron Hayman, Alex 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….when after both Kiefel and Hampsten stunningly won stages during the Giro….thus becoming the first American stage winners ever at a Grand Tour….then 7-Eleven was invited to the 1986 Tour de France….which 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.
While it was not the first professional cycling team in the U.S…..7-Eleven was responsible for an overall increase in bike racing interest in the U.S….as the team claimed a win in a Grand Tour….when Andrew Hampsten won the general classification as well as the mountains classification at the 1988 Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy)….plus, It also claimed a handful of world championship medals and US championships….as well as Tour de France and Giro stage wins….and one more Grand Tour podium with Hampsten’s third in the 1989 Giro d’Italia.