CORALVILLE — Olympic wrestling gold medalist and University of Iowa coaching icon Dan Gable held court in his front yard right where the RAGBRAI route scooped up a hill on Newport Road a few miles north of Coralville.
But he wasn’t exactly “courtly.” Dressed in a simple black shirt and roomy Hawkeyes sweatpants, he shook hands with riders who hadn’t expected to see such a legend just hanging out in the woods.
“It blew me away,” said rider Aaron Spiess, 29, of Cedar Falls.
Gable came out to watch riders this morning and saw one of the first around 9:30 a.m.
“The first person didn’t stop. And then the next thousand didn’t stop,” he said. “They were on a mission.”
But as the day wore on, hundreds of riders pulled off the road to pay say hello. Gable hadn’t advertised that he would be greeting folks but figured it would be a good opportunity.
He and his family set up a wrestling mat in the yard and he coached some kids through a few moves. The mat converted briefly to a slip-n-slide during the midday rain but served again as a wrestling mat once the sun dried it off.
Gable, 66, used to run these hills for workouts but now bikes them, because it’s easier on his joints.
“I’ve been wanting to get a workout in today, but I’ve been out here all day,” he said.
But he is hardly a quitter. Later in the evening he planned to head inside to lift weights and log some miles on his stationary bike.
One footnote: It’s college jersey day on RAGBRAI, so I wore my shirt from Graceland University. Gable, ever the coach, spotted it and told me he had once tried to recruit from Graceland “a young man named Caitlyn.”
Back then, in the ’70s, Caitlyn went by the name Bruce Jenner.
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