REGIONAL—Look for thousands of bicyclists to pedal through N’West Iowa next summer, although it might not be for RAGBRAI.
Sheldon and Rock Rapids were announced as overnight towns Wednesday, Nov. 27, for Iowa’s Ride, a new weeklong bike ride in which cyclists commute across the Hawkeye State going east to west.
The new ride was started by former organizers of The Des Moines Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which typically does not announce its route until January.
Iowa’s Ride will start in Dubuque and has stops in Monticello, Vinton, Eldora, Clarion and Emmetsburg before reaching Sheldon on Friday, July 17. Following the stop in the city “Where Families Come First,” the 416-mile ride will end in Rock Rapids.
The ride starts Sunday, July 12, and finishes Saturday, July 18.
Iowa Ride’s director T.J. Juskiewicz said they are thrilled the inaugural event will come through N’West Iowa.
“It’s great riding in that area, great people, great towns — you know everything there is to have about a great bike ride — so we’re totally excited about it,” he said.
Juskiewicz was the organizer for RAGBRAI for 16 years before he and the rest of his staff resigned in October, citing The Register’s handling of the Carson King situation.
King, 24, went viral in September after posting his Venmo username on a homemade sign asking for beer money that was shown on ESPN’s “College GameDay” while the show was broadcasting from Ames.
As donations kept pouring in, King decided he would raise more money and donate the proceeds — minus the cost of Busch Light six-pack — to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City.
During his donation drive, The Register reported some offensive racist tweets made by King when he was 16 in an otherwise glowing profile, which caused an immense backlash against the newspaper and cost a staff writer his job. King ultimately contributed more than $3 million to the medical facility and Gov. Kim Reynolds even declared Saturday, Sept. 28, as Carson King Day in Iowa.
Juskiewicz said proceeds for Iowa’s Ride will go charities in the state with half the proceeds generated from the inaugural run going to the children’s hospital.
Officials in Sheldon and Rock Rapids are more than happy to be part of the new event.
Rock Rapids Chamber of Commerce director Angie Jager said it will be different for her community, which served as a RAGBRAI start city in 1979, 1999 and 2007.
Jager said Rock Rapids had applied to host RAGBRAI — the application for which is still pending — but she also reached out to Juskiewicz after he announced the formation of Iowa’s Ride.
The aspect she looks forward to most is allowing returning cyclists to see how much Rock Rapids has changed since it hosted RAGBRAI in 2007.
A major flood in 2014 reshaped parts of the community and lots of large investments have been made there in the last dozen years.
“We can show what amenities we have,” Jager said.
Sheldon officials also sought to be part of RAGBRAI in 2020 but were more than fine with accepting the invite from Iowa’s Ride since the venture is being put on by familiar faces.
Sheldon hosted RAGBRAI overnight in 1993 and 2005 and served as a stop-through community in 2014.
Heidi Brown, Iowa’s Ride co-committee chair for Sheldon, think the new ride will offer a great experience to cyclists and bring cycling back to its humble roots compared to the corporate extravaganza of modern RAGBRAI, which is in its 48th year.
“I’d rather be part of Iowa’s Ride because RAGBRAI got so big, so corporate,” Brown said. “There are a lot of whole of people who are going to be excited; this is going back to the grass-roots of bike riding when mom and pop could put a pie stand out on the end of the driveway. It got so big you couldn’t do that with RAGBRAI anymore.”
Iowa’s Ride will focus on the northern part of the state and Juskiewicz said many communities in that region reached out to him to get involved with it.
“We just started looking at different routes and ways that we could weave routes into both of those communities and here we are, we are going to visit both Sheldon and Rock Rapids,” Juskiewicz said.
Another big change between this ride and RAGBRAI, besides the direction riders go, is that it will be smaller, Juskiewicz said.
“We’re looking at a cap of 5,000 riders, something very manageable,” he said.
Juskiewicz thinks the smaller crowds — RAGBRAI attracts roughly 25,000 cyclists some days — will appeal to the smaller communities on the route.
“It’s a good size ride to bring to these communities so we’re really looking forward to it,” he said.