For most U.S. cycling fans, Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong represent American success in the Tour de France and the pinnacle of the sport.
They are viewed as leaders of the country’s pro peloton, but in fact followed the wheels of the groundbreaking Team 7-Eleven.
The squad founded in 1981 by Milwaukee native Jim Ochowicz and speedskater Eric Heiden was the first U.S team to race in the tour and to challenge the European dominance in cycling.
Their historic efforts and the team’s 30th anniversary will be celebrated Saturday as part of the 8th Annual Saris Gala, a fundraiser for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.
Ochowicz, who led the victorious Team BMC in the 2011 Tour, will be joined at the gala by Chris Carmichael, Ron Kiefel, Alex Steida, Jeff Pierce, Raul Alcala, and Doug Shapiro, members of the 7-Eleven team that made the inaugural U.S. venture in the 1986 Tour.
They will have stories to tell, giving first-hand accounts of the team’s formation, their training and their struggles to reach the finish line in Paris.
A new book, “Team 7-Eleven: How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took on the World and Won,” provides an extended version of those tales.
A feature in Cyclingnews described their impact: “The 'American Invasion' had been a qualified success. With an American rider winning and an American team participating, all that remained was for the two to come together and bring a yellow jersey back to the States. Lance Armstrong and his US Postal squad would do just that thirteen years later, standing on the shoulders of Davis Phinney, Ron Kiefel, Bob Roll, etc."
Ochowicz and another Team 7-Eleven member, Tom Schuler, will appear Monday for a book signing at Wheel & Sprocket ‘s Brookfield store, 13925 W. Capitol Dr. The book-signing runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Saris Gala starts at 6 p.m. in the headquarters of the Saris Cycling Group, 5253 Verona Rd., in Madison.
Advance tickets purchased online are $50. The price is $60 at the door.
Over the past seven years, the Saris Gala has raised almost half a million dollars for the Bike Fed and is the number one, single-night bicycle fundraiser in the United States.