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Two Whiteman Airmen join AF cycling team for world’s largest bike event

RAGBRAI 2018 (Courtesy photo)

RAGBRAI 2018 (Courtesy photo)

RAGBRAI 2018 (Courtesy photo)

RAGBRAI 2018 (Courtesy photo)

RAGBRAI 2018 Air Force team (Courtesy photo)

RAGBRAI 2018 Air Force team (Courtesy photo)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Geoffrey Steeves, commander of the 13th Bomb Squadron, and Lt. Col. Daniel Knerl, commander of the 72nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, rode more than 500 miles from Iowa’s western border on the Missouri River to its eastern border on the Mississippi River in the annual RAGBRAI cycling event.

The RAGBRAI, which stands for the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is seven consecutive days in July and participants typically camp at designated towns along the route.

It’s the world’s largest weeklong bicycle ride. The event began in 1973 and the Air Force has participated for 24 years. This year, the Air Force Team included 126 riders and 15 support members. They are active duty, National Guard, retirees and dependents from 14 different bases or regions, said Senior Master Sgt. Larry Gallo, executive director of the Air Force Cycling Team.

The Air Force riders also act as informal roadside assistants, providing bike maintenance and minor first aid, which gives them an opportunity to talk about their service.

“One changed flat tire, fixed bike chain or conversation in one small town Iowa at a time, the Air Force Team conveyed an extremely positive image of Airmen to a region that has few or no active duty military installations,” Steeves said. “Our RAGBRAI participation allowed Americans to connect with their Airmen, with whom they would otherwise rarely engage.”

Knerl added, “It truly is a great recruiting event of sorts, with many conversations starting with people thanking us for our service, asking us where we are stationed and what we do. It was awesome to see and be a part of.”