Even though all active duty members must adhere to their yearly Air Force-instituted physical fitness assessment, there are a variety of different methods that Airmen use to stay fit. Many of our active duty community on Minot Air Force Base participate in and thrive in a multitude of sports and activities.
Tech. Sgt. Thomas Abney from the 91st Missile Security Forces Squadron is one of those Airmen who doesn’t just slide in the minimum for athleticism; Abney is an active member of the Air Force Cycling Team, who will be assisting recruitment by riding in the major Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) event at the end of this month.
Abney began his journey with cycling before he was in the AF, when he was forced to ride his bike to work instead of driving and started to enjoy it. Flash forward to 2013 when Abney was stationed at Tinker AFB in Oklahoma and he saw a flyer for the Air Force Cycling Team; he then decided to buy a road bike and start riding. The Team has squads at many bases and is comprised of all levels of riders. The requirements to join the team are few and are listed on their website, afcycling.com/join-team/. Mainly, a rider must be AF affiliated, own a road bike and have a passion for cycling. It is even open to dependents and retirees.
According to Abney, one of the main goals of the Air Force Cycling Team is to promote the Service in the RAGBRAI event held every July in Iowa. This world-renowned cycling event is more than a race, it is an experience. The RAGBRAI website, ragbrai.com, explains the event as: “Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is more than just a bike ride, it is an epic eight-day rolling festival of bicycles, music, food, camaraderie, and community. It is the oldest, largest, and longest multi-day bicycle touring event in the world.” The event, which follows the Missouri River to the eastern Mississippi River, began in 1973. “The 462-mile, July 24-30 ride, with 12,945 feet of climb, will be the first since 1984 to feature a 100-mile Century Day, instead of an optional added-mileage loop,” explains their website.
This is the sixth year that Abney has been involved in the event, with his only missed years due to scheduling of deployments or TDYs. Abney described the event by explaining the traditional nature of the ride. He said that all the little towns that the race runs through host mini-fairs and the whole town turns out to support the racers. Abney also mentioned that the event is not only open to cyclists, but skateboarders, scooters or really any small non-motorized vehicles. He said that even though the race can be dangerous at times, part of what makes it fun is the people.
The Air Force Cycling Team and the RAGBRAI event hold a unique relationship. The team goes not only to ride in the event but also to serve Air Force public relations through the We Are All Recruiters (WEAR) program. Under this program, members from the Team are able to participate in the RAGBRAI event as a permissive TDY. “The AF Cycling Team has been riding in RAGBRAI since 1995 and through the years were coined as the ‘guardian angels of the road’ because we are contractually obligated to stop for any riders in need of assistance. We have assisted with first aid, mechanical issues, flat tires and a multitude of other things,” said Abney. The Team uses this event as a major recruiting opportunity by representing the Air Force well amongst the approximately 16,000 riders every year.
TSgt. Abney, who plans to stay on the team even into retirement, cherishes the opportunity to use his passion for the AF. He said that anyone who is interested in the AF Cycling Team can go to their website and just start riding in any local events. Although he said that there are not many events in the Minot and North Dakota area, they are always open to new riders and chances to ride together. “[The AF Cycling Team is perfect for] Airmen and young people to branch out of your comfort zone, learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable and make contacts outside of your circle. It gives the opportunity to get a broader perspective of what the AF has to offer.”