On Friday, RAGBRAI announced the route its cyclists will follow across Iowa this summer. Participants in the week-long ride will start at the Missouri River in Sergeant Bluff and head for Lansing, where they will dip their wheels in the Mississippi. In between, RAGBRAI will stop for the night in Ida Grove, Pocahontas, Emmetsburg, Mason City, Charles City and West Union.
The July 23-30 ride will cover 430 miles, and between the two rivers cyclists will climb 11,900 feet in elevation, according to organizers.
The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa started in 1973, when two writers for the Des Moines Register, John Karras and Donald Kaul, invited the public to join them on a six-day bicycle ride across the state, from the Missouri River to the Mississippi. The following year the ride expanded to its current length of seven days, and Bill Gilbert, a writer from Sports Illustrated, joined in. Gilbert wrote an article praising the relaxed and friendly cross-state ride, bringing international attention to the event.
RAGBRAI has since grown into one of the leading annual cycling events in the country.
This year marks the return of RAGBRAI to its status as Iowa’s only cross-state cycling event, or at least, the only cycling event with cross-state ambitions. Its fleeting and apparently now-defunct rival, Iowa’s Ride, never actually managed to stage a ride across Iowa.
Iowa’s Ride was established in October 2019, after RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz and two other longtime members of its staff quit due to disagreements with the management at Gannett, the parent company of the Des Moines Register. Juskiewicz immediately announced he and his two colleagues were creating Iowa Ride’s, an east-to-west cross-state ride that would take place the same week as RAGBRAI riders followed their west-to-east route.
RAGBRAI returned in 2021, but by then Juskiewicz had moved to Arizona to become executive director of another cycling event, El Tour de Tucson, and the remaining organizers announced they had “decided to modify the event to a weekend event based out of Eldora, Iowa.”
Speaking to Little Village after the changes to Iowa’s Ride, Juskiewicz said they planned to continue beyond the weekend in Eldora “in some form.”
“There are definitely enough people interested in seeing it continue. And the team is just starting to work on that,” he said.
That now appears to have been overly optimistic. Iowa’s Ride’s former website is listed as available for purchase by GoDaddy. The last post on its Facebook page was on July 4, 2021.
RAGBRAI organizers said they are expecting 15,000 riders this summer “with participants from all 50 states and a host of international locations.” Registration for the event is still open.