NORMAN — Eighteen years ago the Norman Conquest bike ride was born when the Bicycle League of Norman talked to Jeff Stewart about the possibility of O’Connell’s Irish Pub and Grill sponsoring a local bike ride.
“Norman Conquest originated at O’Connell’s and it got too big for us to handle,” said Stewart, who is still a race sponsor. Last year, Stewart added a free pasta dinner as part of the ride registration package. Accompanying friends and family members can also eat pasta for $5.
“It’s great fun. It’s the second year that we’ve done the pasta feed,” Stewart said. “We share in the cost as part of our sponsorship.”
Last year they ran out of pasta, Stewart said.
Former Conquest director, Michelle Carr said there were a record 650 riders from across Oklahoma and six other states at last year’s ride.
While a few of those riders may just blow into town, ride and leave, many come early and spend the night or stop somewhere for lunch before heading back out of town.
Stewart said O’Connell’s gets some lunch overflow from the Saturday event and it’s great to hear cyclists saying how much they enjoyed the experience.
“It definitely brings people to town,” Stewart said. “There are a lot of cyclists who travel from event to event. This is a great event. The cyclists are happy with the ride and its organization.”
Rocky Chen is massage therapist at the Health Club at Brookhaven Village. He offers free massages following the bike ride.
“My first year was 2001,” he said. “One of my friends who was in massage school with me needed help.”
At that time, Chen said the event was still at O’Connell’s and O’Connell’s was at its former location at Lindsey Street and Jenkins Avenue. Chen has continued his involvement ever since.