Davis Phinney's cycling dream team

1986 Tour de France stage winner picks his dream team

I was fortunate to ride professionally on two groundbreaking teams - 7-Eleven and Coors Light - alongside many, many great riders. Coors Light was the dominant US based team of its era and superbly directed by Len Pettyjohn. But while stacked with talent, it’s difficult to quantify how successful we might’ve been in the big European races - only a few of the Coors guys were afforded the opportunity to race regularly in Europe. For that reason, I’ve built a dream team primarily from those riders of the 7-Eleven era (from when the team went professional in ’85 to ’90). I’ve also chosen to leave myself off the roster. As well, I haven’t included any of the other talented sprinters I rode with - a tough call - but having a team without a pure sprinter - but with proven winners - is still a recipe for results. Also important is team chemistry. In both cases, with 7-Eleven and Coors, what stood out was how solid the team harmony was. Pro bike racing is a tough, competitive business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and enjoy good camaraderie. In my view, team morale is a key ingredient to an individual's morale and ultimately to success, and I’ve taken that into account here as well.

Image courtesy of Pro Cycling Trumps

Road Captain/All rounder: Steve Bauer, 7-Eleven. In our amateur days Steve and I duked it out all across the US, but following his silver medal ride in the 1984 Olympics, Steve turned pro and impressively found immediate success, scoring a bronze in the 1984 World Championship road race. He went on to wear the Yellow Jersey for numerous days at the Tour in both ’88 and ’90, won a stage (’88) and finished 4th overall in the infamous 1986 Tour de France where his then La Vie Clare teammates Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault battled each other for the win. Competitive in any and all races from the Classics - like Paris-Roubaix, where he came agonizingly close to victory, judged 2nd on the line by mere millimeters to Eddy Planckaert in the closest finish in the race’s history (1990) - to Grand Tours, Steve’s unflappably calm, confident demeanor and astute tactical sense proved invaluable as a team leader.

Climber: Andy Hampsten, 7-Eleven. During the mid - late 1980s, Andy (with due respect to Lucho Herrera and Robert Miller) was arguably the best pure climber in the world. He won the stage to Gran Paradiso during the ’85 Giro - which happened to be his first ever pro race - and never looked back. He is most well known for being the only American ever crowned Giro Champion (’88) and his win on Alpe D’Huez ('92) was simply sublime. A resilient North Dakotan (he showcased his grit, riding into the Pink Jersey, during the infamous blizzard on Gavia Pass), Andy was a hard-working, unabashedly principled teammate, who set the highest standards for personal integrity.

All rounder: Raul Alcala, 7-Eleven. Raul was one of the most naturally talented riders I ever had the privilege to ride with. Easy going yet proud, he could do it all; from crushing TT rides, to climbing with the best (multi TdF stage and White Jersey winner), to doing the hard work at the front of a chase, Raul always stepped up. Tactically savvy, he had a feel for the races that can’t be taught. Easy to be around, with an infectious laugh and ready smile, Raul was an ace in our proverbial deck of cards.

Image courtesy of Pro Cycling Trumps

Climber/All rounder: Mike Engleman, Coors Light. Michael came late to cycling, having been a national class runner in college. While not having the chance to race much in Europe, he nonetheless deserves a spot on this team. He was incredibly strong, showing his chops by winning or contending in nearly every major US race of note. Upbeat, articulate and intelligent, Michael was a fantastic teammate - and voracious reader - he could always be counted upon to deliver, either on the road, or simply through enlightened conversation.

Rouler: Sean Yates, 7-Eleven. Sean was amazing. His prowess on the road and in TTs (1988 Tour de France stage winner at a then record avg speed) was impressive to say the least. And his prolific teamwork and bike handling/descending prowess were unrivaled. Whether waiting on a climb to pace a dropped teammate (read; me) back to the group (frequently by blitzing the descent), or giving a blazing leading out in a sprint finale, he was a peerless professional through and through. Sean didn’t suffer fools gladly, which was part of his charm … and his wheel, along with Ron Kiefel's, was the wheel to follow.

Rouler: Dag Otto Lauritzen, 7-Eleven. Dag Otto's palmares include an Olympic medal and Tour de France stage win (the first for Norway) at Luz Ardiden (’87) and his victory in the one-day classic Henniger-Turm (’87) was a big step up for our team. He was tough as nails, especially in the hard Belgian races, like the Tour of Flanders (3rd in’89). Previous to Steve joining the team, Dag Otto made 7-Eleven into a legitimate contender in the Spring Classics and was a pressure performer, winning the Tour de Trump (’89 - and yes the sponsor was Donald Trump), then the biggest, richest stage race in the States.

Image courtesy of Pro Cycling Trumps

Rouler: Bob Roll, 7-Eleven. Bobke was, and is, a unique and genuine character. In the peloton he was both loved - and feared. Loved because of his jocular nature and gift for languages … and feared because of the aura of unpredictability he cultivated. Bob was a stellar teammate - strong as an ox, fearless and intimidating. When Steve Bauer was in the leader's jersey during the ’90 Tour de France, Bob would sit on the front line of the peloton and brazenly snarl ‘don’t anyone even think about attacking!’ which made even the most hardened riders cower slightly. Affable and gregarious otherwise, Bobke was a keen, insightful observer of people and life - and often listened to his own drum beat - which on occasion created a miscue with the 'powers that be’. As a friend and teammate, I loved him - and no one had your back - in the race … or in the bar - like Bob. And that was truly priceless.

Rouler: Ron Kiefel, 7-Eleven/Coors Light. In his day Ron, aka; Wookie, could leave anyone behind in a hilltop finish. He showcased that ability in Perugia during the ’85 Giro where he won in spectacular fashion - riding Francesco Moser and Gerrie Kneteman off his wheel in the final uphill kilometer. Wookie and I grew up racing together and there is no rider I respect more, nor is there another rider who helped me more to be successful, as he did. In Europe, Ron put our fledgling 7-Eleven team on the map - by winning the Tropheo Laigueglia (as a neo-pro - in a team full of neo-pros), which paved the way for a Giro invite (and his aforementioned stage win). In so doing, he indisputably boosted the trajectory for American bike racers and what was possible for us.

Rouler: Roy Knickman, 7-Eleven/Coors Light; Roy was a tempo monster. He could sit on the front all day, pulling steadily, to control the field or contain a breakaway. Unbeatable as a junior, Roy was true ‘wunderkind’, and as a professional, he won numerous times including stages at the Dauphine (’87) and Tour of Switzerland (’87) as well. But it was his knowledge and enthusiasm for the craft; whether it be tactics, or technique (next to Yates, he was the fastest descender of the era), frame design, or bicycle mechanics, that set him apart. At heart, Roy was a big diesel engine, as unselfish as they come, and an invaluable asset.

Alternates: Eric Heiden, Chris Carmichael, Alex Stieda, Scott Mckinley, Jock Boyer, Jens Veggerby, Jeff Pierce - to name a few of many.

DS: Mike Neel, 7-Eleven. At his best (’85-’88), Mike was a genius at understanding how to pull a team together and get the most out of every rider. He was savvy and tactically prescient - knowing what was coming on the road before anyone else did (in the era before internet, cell phones, team radios, et al, that ability was crucial). Charming and persuasive, Mike was a potent DS. Unfortunately, a serious car accident derailed him in early 1989 but I credit Mike with giving Andy, and the team, the self-belief that he - that we - could win the Giro.

Team Manager: Jim Ochowicz, 7-Eleven. Jim was the father of Team 7-Eleven. Jim (and Eric Heiden) convinced the Southland Corp (parent company of 7-Eleven) to invest in a cycling team in 1981. And Jim re-convinced Southland to continue backing the team following the ’84 Olympics, when he turned the team pro and off we went to Europe (where there were a grand total of zero 7-Eleven stores). Jim had a knack for hiring talented riders and staff that could meld seamlessly into the fold. But more so, he paved new roads; from breaking down the gender barrier in Europe by introducing female soigneurs (beginning with the irrepressible Shelley Versus) to the men's peloton, to securing our team an invite to the Tour de France in 1986 (becoming the first North American team to gain entry). Jim was our rock and it was thanks to his vision that our intrepid 'band of brothers' gained a platform on the world stage.

Riders I wish I’d been teammates with back in the day: Phil Anderson, Allan Peiper and Paolo Rosola…

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