History lessons

Imagine a cycling world where nine-speed drivetrains have always been “old,” and where the glory days of steel never happened.

That’s my cycling world, which started well into the era of 10-speed cassettes and carbon fiber EVERYTHING. I’ve never owned an aluminum bike. (I know I’m not alone there, so don’t go getting all up in my business about being a new kid.

Despite my newness, I have taken the time to dig into the history of the sport. I know my way around the big names — Merckx, Coppi, Anquetil, Hinault, LeMond — but there are still large chunks of time unaccounted for.

So when the new Team 7-Eleven book came across my desk (OK, moved to my desk from somebody else’s desk), I had to dig into it. I knew a bit about the team, but only a bit.

As it turns out, I’ve actually met three former team members and raced against one. And I had no idea how instrumental Eric Heiden was in the formation of the team. Moreover, until reading the book I mistakenly believed Heiden, who won five speedskating gold medals in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, was from somewhere Scandinavian.

Hey, cut me some slack. I was 3 in 1980.

And when you think about all the team was up against — obscurity, no money, Euro hate — it’s amazing it came together at all, let alone thrived.

Consider how foreign cycling is to the mainstream public — I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve explained a criterium — and imagine how it was 30 years ago. We had four US-based WorldTour teams in 2011 and the sport is still mired in a repeating loop of doping history rather than current events and race reports.

But it’s something. It’s growing. Without Team 7-Eleven, though, there’s a fair chance we wouldn’t even have that.

You know how I mentioned a few weeks back about teetering on the edge of ‘cross infatuation? Well, I’m in deep now. Since the bike I’m on now is only a loaner — hey, thanks Jay and Kent! — I decided I needed something more permanent.

And after staring at spreadsheets for a week or two (Yeah, I made spreadsheets on potential builds, so what?), I finally pulled the trigger. Parts are arriving and being stockpiled, with a completion date not too far off.

I don’t imagine the disease gets any better from here.

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