Every US rider to race Paris-Roubaix: Pavé and the pioneers, Part 1
Where are they now? We look back at every US rider to race Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Roubaix Femmes across the decades in a three-part series.
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Paris-Roubaix is known by many names, and the iconic and brutal cobblestones of northern France fill the pages of cycling history.
The one-day rumble across the unforgiving pavé of the rural farm roads is unique in cycling. The race is one of the oldest and prestigious in men’s racing, and since its premier in 2021, the Paris-Roubaix Femmes is right at the top of any rider’s wish-list.
Across the decades, 60 men and 11 women registered in the United States have started the “Hell of the North.”
Thanks to assistance from Pascal Sergent, a Paris-Roubaix expert and an author of several books about the legendary race, the names of every U.S. rider to start Roubaix are catalogued in his personal archives.
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For U.S. riders, the race is at once a dream and an albatross — no U.S. rider has yet to win.
George Hincapie with second in 2005 is the best U.S. result and the only U.S. podium in the race’s century-plus history. Leah Thomas with 12th in 2021 is the best by a U.S. woman so far.
In a three-part series, VeloNews dives into the history books to look back at every U.S. rider to start Paris-Roubaix and Paris-Roubaix Femmes.
In part 1, we look at the first wave of riders who busted onto the European scene, the birth of the 7-Eleven and Motorola teams, and their first experiences with the “Hell of the North.”
Riders are listed in chronological order of their first start:
Check VeloNews tomorrow for Part 2.
Every US rider to race Paris-Roubaix: The Pioneers
Jonathan Boyer — 6 starts (1978, DNF; 1981, 55th; 1982, 18th; 1984, DNF; 1986, DNF; 1987, 49th): Like many American cycling milestones in Europe, Boyer was often the first. He was the first U.S. rider to land a European contract in the modern era, and the first American to finish the Tour de France. After working in Rwanda and facing criminal charges in the U.S., Boyer currently resides in Wyoming.
Greg Lemond — 10 starts (1981, 1983-1984, DNF; 1985, 4th; 1986, 30th; 1989, DNF; 1991, 55th; 1992, 9th; 1993-1994, DNF): Who says grand tour riders cannot perform well at Roubaix? The pioneering U.S. legend raced 10 times across the pavé, and finished fourth in 1985 and ninth in 1992. After returning from a hunting accident that nearly killed him, he raced Roubaix again in 1991 and 1992. His 1986 fourth place was the best by a U.S. male until Hincapie’s podium more than a decade later.
John Eustice — 1 start (1982 DNF): Another racing pioneer, two-time U.S. champion Eustice raced on the pro and amateur circuits from the mid-1970s into the late 1980s. He was a founding member of Gianni Motta–Linea M.D. Italia, the first U.S. team to race a grand tour in the 1984 Giro d’Italia. He’s since worked as a TV analyst, a journalist, and founded Sparta Cycling.
John Patterson — 1 start (1984 DNF)
Doug Shapiro — 3 starts (1985, 1986, 1988 DNF): Another one of the early members of the 7-Eleven team, he actually rode his first Roubaix with Kwantum-Decosol, where he was teammates with Adrie van der Poel and Joop Zoetemelk. He raced two more times in his move back to 7-Eleven. He owns Shapiro & Associates, a witness service for bicycle-related injuries.
Chris Carmichael — 1 start (1986 DNF): He rode three seasons with 7-Eleven, but an injury cut short his pro career. He later founded Carmichael Training Systems in 2000, and stepped down as CEO in 2022.
Gavin Chilcott — 1 start (1986 DNF): Chilcott raced in the mid-1980s and later earned a PhD in microbiology. In 2010, he helped found Team BMC Racing and Team CCC as CEO of Continuum Sports with Jim Ochowicz.
Alexi Grewal — 1 start (1986 DNF): An Olympic gold medalist in road racing in Los Angeles 1984, Grewal raced until the early 1990s. His brothers also raced mountain bikes. He later settled in Colorado and works as a furniture maker.
Ron Kiefel — 2 starts (1986, 1988): One of the stalwarts of the 7-Eleven team, Kiefel raced editions of Roubaix. Among his victories were the Trofeo Laigueglia and a stage at the Giro d’Italia, both in 1985 in the team’s first season in Europe. He ran his family’s bike shop for years.
Roy Knickman — 3 starts (1986-1987 DNF; 1988, 65th): A stalwart of 7-Eleven and the Coors Light teams, Knickman later worked as a fireman, cycling coach, and sport director and manager at U.S. domestic teams.
Davis Phinney — 2 starts (1989-1990 DNF): Phinney was the biggest star of American cycling — along with Eric Heiden, who never raced Roubaix — and won two Tour de France stages, and the Coors Classic, among his many career highlights. He’s been suffering with Parkinson’s disease for two decades, and started the Davis Phinney Foundation.
Bob Roll — 6 starts (1986, 55th; 1987, 48th; 1988, 25th; 1989, 37th, 1990, 61st, 1991 DNF): Among the first of the 7-Eleven generation to start the “Hell of the North,” Roll raced Roubaix six times, with his best with 25th in 1988. “Bobke” later raced mountain bikes, wrote books, and now works as a TV commentator.
Jeff Bradley — 1 start (1987 DNF): Another former speed skater who transitioned into bike racing, he also raced the 1987 Tour de France.
Andrew Hampsten — 2 starts (1987, 50th; 1988 DNF): It’s hard to imagine the lean climber who is the only American to win the Giro d’Italia racing Roubaix. He started twice and finished 50th in his first try. Hampsten was obviously hard-wired for the towering peaks of Europe, not the gutter races of Belgium and France. After retiring in 1996, he’s operated a bike touring company and a bike brand.
Joe Parkin — 1 start (1988, 74th): Parkin raced on both sides of the Atlantic in a storied career that he chronicled in his acclaimed books, A Dog in a Hat and Come and Gone.
Jeff Pierce — 1 start (1989 DNF): As a member of the 7-Eleven team, he became the third American (after Davis Phinney and Greg LeMond) to win a stage in the Tour de France after winning the final stage on the Champs-Élysées from the breakaway. He later worked in telecommunications, coaching, in various positions with USA Cycling, and is currently the CEO of Carmichael Training Systems.
John Tomac — 2 starts (1990, 92nd; 1991 DNF): Tomac was racing across multiple disciplines long before the likes of Mathieu van der Poel or Tom Pidcock. The mountain bike legend raced on the road from 1988-1991, and finished 92nd in his lone Roubaix start in 1990. That same year he was 20th in Gent-Wevelgem, and he later founded Tomac Bicycles. His son is a noted motocross champion.
Frankie Andreu — 11 starts (1990, 90th; 1991 DNF; 1992, 72nd; 1993 DNF; 1994, 9th; 1995, 29th; 1996, 24th; 1997, 43rd; 1998 OTL; 1999, 21st; 2000, 20th): Andreu raced 11 editions of Roubaix among his 25 career monument starts, with a career-best 9th in 1995. His racing career spanned the era from 7-Eleven to Motorola and U.S. Postal Service, and later provided testimony in the USADA case. After retiring he’s remained active in cycling as a commentator, coach, and manager.
Norman Alvis — 1 start (1990, 91st): Alvis raced one Roubaix during his pro career, and continues racing as an amateur.
Andy Bishop — 3 starts (1991, 48th; 1992 64th; 1993 DNF): Bishop raced three editions during his stint at Motorola and later raced mountain bikes. After retiring, he’s worked as a cycling coach and as a professional photographer.
Bart Bowen — 1 start (1993 DNF): Since retiring, Bowen works as a coach and trainer.
Nate Reiss — 1 start (1993, 55th): After his racing career, Reiss works as a clinical psychotherapist.
Paul Willerton — 1 start (1993 DNF): After retiring from road and mountain bike racing, he’s worked across the bike industry for decades with such brands as LeMond Bicycles and DeFeet, and is founder of W Laboratories.
Check VeloNews tomorrow for Part 2.