RAGBRAI to start in Orange City

Iowa's Ride — the scheduled statewide bike ride to have overnight stops in Sheldon and Rock Rapids — downsized to a one-city, three-day event based in Eldora.

REGIONAL—Iowa’s Ride is no longer a weeklong trek across the state after the cycling event announced Tuesday it will be downsizing the itinerary to a July weekend based in Eldora.

The event was first styled after RAGBRAI — The Des Moines Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — with the route starting in Dubuque and pedaling through several cities, including an overnight stop in Sheldon, and ending in Rock Rapids.

Event director TJ Juskiewicz said in an e-mail — most of which later was reiterated on the Iowa’s Ride Facebook page — that the main reason for the change was the difficulty in securing venues.

“Since we were mainly in smaller communities there were not many suitable options to safely camp other than school grounds or city parks,” Juskiewicz said. “Although we were able to secure some alternative locations, we ultimately decided to modify the event to a weekend event based out of Eldora.”

Heidi Brown was co-chair of Sheldon’s Ride, which was to oversee the event in the town. She said she was “very glad they’ve come with an alternative,” and was conciliatory after what had been a tense relationship between Juskiewicz and local organizers.

“Iowa’s Ride made adaptations based on all things pandemic,” Brown said. “Again, unfortunately, with last year being their inaugural year and then a pandemic, it was a really tough situation for them.”

Sheldon’s Ride decided on March 2 to back out as an official sponsor of the event, citing uncertainty from the Iowa’s Ride organizers. Officials in Rock Rapids similarly expressed apprehension and tentativeness about whether the event would materialize.

Curt Strouth, also with Sheldon’s Ride and the Sheldon Chamber and Development Corporation director, said it is “unfortunate” that the original vision for the event did not work out.

Eldora city administrator Aaron Budweg did not have much to say on his city becoming the sole host of the miniaturized event. The Hardin County seat already was an overnight stop on the Iowa’s Ride route.

“They asked if we’d be willing to host and we said, ‘Yes,’” Budweg said. “They asked and we’re more than happy to host them.”

The news highlights the questions many summertime events are facing as the coronavirus pandemic lingers.

“We had several of our small community schools or city facilities that were still not comfortable opening their facilities needed for overnight camping throughout this upcoming summer,” Juskiewicz said.

An issue specific to Iowa’s Ride was attracting enough participants. Juskiewicz estimated in early March that the event could have up to 1,000 cyclists, close to the number that was signed up for the inaugural 2020 event, which was canceled as COVID-19 first took hold in the Midwest.

The Eldora event, rebranded as Iowa’s Ride Weekender, is scheduled for July 16-18. The event is free, a change from the previous registration fee of $175. In lieu of required payment, riders are encouraged to donate to the Eldora Rotary Club.

After the 2020 Iowa’s Ride was canceled, a 75 percent refund was available for a limited time. The organization did not respond by press time whether refunds would be given to those who already paid for the 2021 event.

RAGBRAI — the event Iowa’s Ride was meant to challenge — still plans to hold its weeklong event which embarks from LeMars on July 25.