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By Karen Kefauver
November 4, 2011
Link to Sentinel article

Geoff DrakeCycling is the most constant theme in Geoff Drake’s life.

“I’ve been a bike commuter, I’ve toured the world, I have worked in bike shops and I was editor at Velo News and Bicycling Magazine,” said Drake, a member of the Bicycle Trip’s race team and senior web editor at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

His passion for the sport and experience as a cycling journalist are reflected in his new book, “Team 7-Eleven: How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took on the World — and Won!”

The book, written with Jim Ochowicz — a two-time Olympic cyclist, former speed skater and the co-founder of the 7-Eleven cycling team — was released in September. Ochowicz, of Palo Alto, is the director of the BMC pro cycling team and was inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in 1997.

Drake, of Aptos, and Ochowicz teamed up for a book signing at the Bicycle Trip Thursday night to mark the Northern California launch of their book. In a phone interview prior to the talk, Drake shared why he thinks the story of 7-Eleven is important.

“Most people know Lance Armstrong and his accomplishments,” said Drake, 52, who has covered cycling events such as the Tour de France and the Olympic Games. “The way to think of 7-Eleven is this is the pro cycling team that laid the foundation for Lance. American cycling was not prominent in Europe. This was the first all-American team to go to Europe.”

Ochowicz co-founded Team 7-Eleven with Olympic speed skating medalist Eric
Heiden as an amateur team in 1981, changed the designation to a pro team in 1985 and managed it through 1991. That pivotal decade, the main focus of the book, was when Team 7-Eleven launched the careers of American cycling stars Davis Phinney, Ron Kiefel, Andy Hampsten, Bob Roll and others.

Perhaps equally important, Team 7-Eleven is credited with creating an increase in bike racing interest in the U.S. The team won the 1988 Giro d’Italia and a handful of world championship medals and U.S. championships, as well as Tour de France and Giro stage wins.

“Team 7-Eleven’s contribution has become more apparent in retrospect and has sort of ripened as the years go by,” Drake said when asked why the story is relevant now. “They were heralded in their own time, but now we can look back and see how they paved the way for many American cyclists — and for the sport of cycling.”

The 322-page hardback book with archival photos was a labor of love for Drake, who spent four years researching and writing. He estimates that he conducted several hundred interviews in that time.

While writing the book, Drake maintained his cycling routine. He races Cat 2 [expert] in both road racing and cross country mountain biking. He still typically rides five or six times a week, and noted that his twice-a-week workouts with Bicycle Trip team coach Mark Edwards are critical to staying in shape.

Drake also knows how to slow down. He enjoys a more leisurely pace when riding from Aptos to Seabright on his custom tandem bike with wife Meredith for Sunday breakfast. While his wife is an avid cyclist, he realizes that not everyone speaks bicycling lingo.

“I hope that anybody could sit down and pick up this book and think this is an interesting story.’ I tried not to speak insider language too much,” Drake said. “It’s a story about people and their drive to succeed and the pitfalls of athletic endeavors. It’s about these moments of incredible glory and incredible accomplishment quickly followed by complete disaster and utter failure and then doing it all over again.”

In January, Drake will visit Capitola Book Café for a reading and book signing and has other planned appearances in Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

Karen Kefauver, www.karenkefauver.com, is a freelance sports and travel journalist based in Santa Cruz and an avid cyclist. She blogs about cycling for the Sentinel at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.

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