DAVENPORT — For the 10th year in a row, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of St. Ambrose University will ride in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) next month.
Steve Conrad, a 1975 alumnus of St. Ambrose, is one of the organizers for this year’s SAU team. “I am one of a handful of team members who has been on every RAGBRAI with the team. Through the team, I got involved with and became a member of the alumni board.”
The ride gives alumni a chance to get together and to promote the university along the route. In general, the SAU team consists of 25 to 30 riders. Capacity is limited because of the need to transport team members to the ride’s start and from the ride’s endpoint. “We also don’t want to overwhelm our hosts,” Conrad said. This year, 11 of the 25 riders will ride the whole week. Other team members usually ride for three or four days, he noted.
“The alumni office originally started the team and did everything for the first couple of years,” Conrad said. After that, several team members took over management and “we’ve become pretty much a self-operating entity. The office also provides the gifts that we give tour overnight hosts.”
When the route is announced, hosts are sought to house the team. “The alumni office provides us with a list of alumni in the overnight towns and we contact them to ask for housing. If we can’t find an alumni host, we try to find one through family and friends. As a last recourse, we go through the towns’ housing committees to find hosts. Generally the host will provide a place to pitch our tents, and a bathroom and a shower. Some have been generous enough to let us sleep inside,” Conrad said.
Normally, riders are on their own for meals. “There have been hosts who generously provided meals for us, but that is not something that we ask of them.”
The team rents a van or truck to transport riders and equipment. The truck does not have St. Ambrose signage on it, but the crew has discussed getting large magnets to attach to the vehicles. Conrad says the ride allows people with a connection to St. Ambrose to connect with one another or a relative of theirs. “There is definitely an opportunity to promote the university as well.” Team jerseys — one way to identify the St. Ambrose University connection — have been ordered for this year’s ride, which is the fourth jersey in the 10 years a team has existed.
This year’s ride starts July 22 in Onawa, Iowa, on the west side of the state and ends July 28 in Davenport. To follow the team during RAGBRAI visit their Facebook page.