SHELDON—With the future of Iowa’s Ride uncertain, Sheldon decided March 2 to put the brakes on being an official community host for the new statewide cycling event.
The move comes after a prolonged period of malaise surrounding the bike ride. Sheldon was originally scheduled to be one of the eight overnight stops on the route on Friday, July 23.
Heidi Brown is co-chair of Sheldon’s Ride, the committee that oversaw local accommodations and facilities.
Brown said a lack of clear direction from Iowa’s Ride director T.J. Juskiewicz was a main factor in the decision. With so many questions surrounding the event, including whether it would even take place, she said Sheldon could not properly plan for potentially hundreds of cyclists staying in town for the night.
The inaugural Iowa’s Ride was planned for last summer, but was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Given the financial devastation of 2020 on that organization as it tried to kickoff something new, the director, as well as others on that staff, now have other full-time jobs. And, in fact, he is no longer in Iowa,” Brown said in an e-mail to The REVIEW.
Juskiewicz moved to Tucson, AZ, last year after the event was canceled. He said he still is planning the event from Arizona and that Iowa’s Ride is still “gathering information.”
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty,” Juskiewicz said. “We’ve been talking to the different towns to see what restrictions will be.”
Brown also pointed out COVID-19 as another barrier to planning.
“With the dramatic change to the potential number of riders/visitors due to the pandemic and also the now ‘semi-supported’ ride — and we’ve been given no definition of what that would even look like — it was nearly impossible for us as a committee to know how to financially plan to hold the special events that overnight communities traditionally do,” she said.
Iowa’s Ride was first conceived by Juskiewicz as a competitor to RAGBRAI, The Des Moines Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which he previously organized.
Juskiewicz left RAGBRAI in the aftermath of the Carson King controversy in the fall of 2019. He disagreed with a Register article that mentioned two racist jokes that King tweeted as a teenager.
Setting off on his own, Juskiewicz has not been able to manifest an event of RAGBRAI’s scale, if one at all.
According to its website — www.iowasride.com — Iowa’s Ride is slated to start on Sunday, July 18, in Dubuque with overnight stops in Monticello, Vinton, Eldora, Clarion and Emmetsburg before coming to Sheldon. After leaving Emmetsburg on the morning of Friday, July 23, cyclists later would pass through Primghar and Archer before arriving in Sheldon — a route of 78 miles.
The next morning, cyclists would pass through Matlock and George before ending Iowa’s Ride at Island Park in Rock Rapids — a route of 33 miles.
The entire route is 416 miles.
According to a statement on the organization’s the website, registration is not open to additional riders and that organizers “have been communicating with Iowa’s Ride towns that look forward to hosting cyclists from all over the world.”
All of Iowa’s Rides plans are up in the air.
Brown said Sheldon would not refuse Iowa’s Ride if did stop in the community, but she cast doubt on the possibility of that happening.
The Sheldon City Council earmarked $5,000 in its 2021-22 fiscal year budget to fund the necessary needs to be an overnight stop on Iowa’s Ride. The city will continue to have that money available in the event that Iowa’s Ride does happen in some or all of its capacity.
George city clerk Loralye Wibben said her community — which is on the Iowa’s Ride route, but not slated as an overnight location — also is awaiting action from Juskiewicz and event organizers, but isn’t expecting it to happen.
“We’re just a pass-through, so it’s whatever they want to do,” Wibben said.
Officials in other communities have recently cast doubt on the longevity of Iowa’s Ride. In a radio interview, Rock Rapids mayor Jason Chase called the event a likely “one and done.”
“If there is an organized ride, we’re glad to let people know, as best we are able through local media, social media, etc. of those things,” Brown said.
In light of the slim chance of a turnaround, Brown maintained the uncertainty as an overall theme of the situation, saying the entirety of Iowa’s Ride “seems to still be a big ‘if.’”