Fourth Ryan O'Malley Annual Ride to Begin June 10

John O'Malley '87 to race in The Tour Divide to raise funds for The Ryan T. O'Malley '99 Memorial Scholarship.
John O’Malley ’87, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Retired, pauses for a moment while riding in the wilderness.
John O’Malley ’87, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Retired, pauses for a moment while riding in the wilderness.

On June 10, John O’Malley ’87, Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Retired, will embark upon ROAR: The Ryan O’Malley Annual Ride for the fourth time by participating in The Tour Divide, an annual ultra-distance cycling race that sees participants traverse the length of the Rocky Mountains from Alberta, Canada, to the US/Mexico border in New Mexico, in support of the Ryan T. O’Malley ’99 Memorial Scholarship.

After Ryan's passing in 2011, his family established the scholarship in his memory to enable Computer Science students of limited resources with an interest in fitness to attend The University of Scranton. Since that time, Ryan's family and friends have raised more than $150,000 for the scholarship, much of it through ROAR: The Ryan O'Malley Annual Race, a 5K fundraising event the family organized from 2013-2017. In 2018, John, Ryan’s brother, embarked upon the inaugural ROAR: The Ryan O’Malley Annual Ride by cycling the 500+ miles of The Colorado Trail from Denver to Durango in Ryan’s memory. While John rode The Colorado Trail again for ROAR in 2019 and 2020, he was sidelined by injuries and knee surgery in 2021. This year, he is looking forward to riding for “family, community and the well-being of others.”

“I ride to remember and honor our brother, Ryan,” he said. “I ride to give back in some way to the community who nurtured us. Through the ROAR and Ryan’s scholarship, we help to provide students with limited financial resources the opportunity to attend The University of Scranton.

“I ride to promote physical and mental well-being. If I can inspire anyone to get outside and exercise, it’s a win.”

A Lifelong Love

John’s love of cycling and adventure began when he was growing up in the Green Ridge section of Scranton.

“Bikes were a big deal back then, and if you had one, you were a lucky kid,” he said. “ For me, the bike became an instrument of exploration, discovery and freedom.”

As the oldest child of John J. O’Malley, Ph.D. ’64, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University, and his wife, Helene, John shared his love of cycling with his five siblings, especially Ryan, his youngest brother.

“As a kid, time and distance had little meaning,” he said of the hours they spent exploring the NEPA area together. “We’d just ride, inspired by the adventure and the natural beauty of the region.”

Upon graduating from the University, John began his military career in Ft. Carson, Colorado, where he started racing mountain bikes. Since then, he has continued to ride and race, competing in triathlons and adventure races throughout the country. When he and his family settled in Monument, Colorado, he became so inspired by the expanses and terrain he saw on two wheels that he proposed the idea of funding Ryan’s scholarship through an annual bike ride, and the rest, as they say, is history.  

The Tour Divide

The Tour Divide follows the 2,745-mile “Great Divide Mountain Bike Route,” a 90% off-road trail that follows the Continental Divide through Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Established by the Adventure Cycling Association in 1998, it is considered the most important off-pavement cycling route in the world.

The Tour Divide’s race clock runs 24 hours a day, and the self-supported riders aren’t allowed any outside help other than the ability to access public facilities along the way that are available to everyone. Participating cyclists must carry their camping equipment, food and water through long stretches of remote mountain wilderness, pristine river valleys, open grassland and desert while risking injury, mechanical failure, treacherous weather and encounters with potentially dangerous wildlife.

John plans to complete The Tour Divide in about 30 days by riding 85-100+ miles a day, and he estimates he’ll have to consume a minimum of 300-400 calories an hour to sustain this effort.

“Competing in The Tour Divide is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I am blessed to have the time, resources, health and support of my family to take on such an endeavor.  I’m going to give it my best shot and make it to the Mexican Border.

“I hope to inspire others to get outside, stay healthy and live life to the fullest, just like Ryan would.”

John said he attributes any success in cycling and in his life in general to his upbringing, to the time he spent on the gridiron and ball fields of Scranton, and to his time at the University.

“The work ethic, values and grit instilled in me at a young age has carried me through challenging times in the military and in sport and adventure,” he said. “My experience at the University and the long hours spent in the ROTC program and the weight room set me up for success in life.

“The people who raised, coached and nurtured me while growing up in Scranton are my greatest life heroes. The University of Scranton was truly our home away from home.”

To support the Ryan O’Malley Annual Ride and Ryan’s scholarship, visit this link. To track John’s progress on The Tour Divide, visit this link.

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