Registration for RAGBRAI 2021 opens, but the COVID-19 mitigation plan is still TBD

Cyclists ride RAGBRAI 2009. — Dave Herholz/Flickr

After being canceled last year for the first time since it began in 1973, RAGBRAI is scheduled to return in 2021. Registration for the cross-state cycling event opened on Monday.

Organizers of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa called off the 2020 ride on April 20, after it became obvious the COVID-19 pandemic would not have receded by its start date of July 19.

“The safety of our riders has always been the most important focus for our RAGBRAI team and we feel the decision to postpone to July 25-31, 2021 is the right one,” the organizers said in a statement last April.

Next year’s race will start in the western Iowa city of Le Mars, and follow the northern route across Iowa the 2020 ride was supposed to, with one exception. Maquoketa will no longer be one of the overnight host cities, due to a scheduled construction project. The town replacing Maquoketa and the route’s pass-through cities for RAGBRAI XLVIII will be announced on Jan. 30.

Last year’s announced route from Le Mars to Clinton was 420.2 miles, making it one of the shortest in RAGBRAI history. That route climbed 12,306 feet, which would have been easier on cyclists than 2019’s climb of 14,735 feet.

The pandemic is still having an impact on event planning for the ride, and RAGBRAI’s site lists serval mitigation measures that are currently under consideration.

1. Entertainment could be limited and/or more dispersed

2. Additional SAG Wagons and vehicles added to the route for rider support

3. Hours could be extended on the route to allow for more social distancing

4. Hosted overnight town housing could be restricted and limited to camping and RVs only

5. Start times could be assigned to allow for more social distancing

6. Additional staff, technical, medical support could be added to crew

7. Vendors in Overnight Towns and along the route could be impacted

8. Access to vendors in Towns and along the route could be restricted to official RAGBRAI participants only

Organizers also said it’s “very likely that COVID-19 screening via email and/or a negative COVID-19 test will be required prior to arrival in Le Mars.” Additional testing may be required during the weeklong ride.

According to an FAQ on the official site, “It is too early to confirm” whether precipitants will be required to have been vaccinated for the virus, “but we will continue to monitor the recommended guidelines regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and update riders and the FAQ as plans are confirmed.”

The FAQ does list one settled part of RAGBRAI’s 2021 pandemic plan: “an increase in KYBOs/Porta-Potties and hand sanitization stations along the route and in Overnight Towns.”

It will cost weeklong riders $175 to register for RAGBRAI XLVIII. Weeklong non-riders will pay $35. If RAGBRAI XLVIII is canceled due to COVID-19 “or other extenuating circumstances,” registrants will have the choice of either a full refund or having their payment apply to entry fees for a virtual RAGBRAI ride.

Registration closes on April 1.

Day passes for RAGBRAI are not currently on sale.

“We are working through mitigation procedures to ensure we can safely accept day pass riders throughout the week,” organizers said. Registration for day passes will open once mitigation plans are finalized.

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