Iowa's Ride changes date, direction of inaugural event to avoid conflict with RAGBRAI
The team behind Iowa's Ride has announced its first event will no longer be held on the same week as the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
Iowa's Ride initially scheduled its week-long event for July 19-25, , the same time as RAGBRAI. Some charters and teams criticized the new ride's organizers and said the move was unnecessarily dividing the biking community.
The new dates for Iowa's Ride are July 12-18. The 48th annual RAGBRAI event will begin as planned on July 19 and run through July 25.
"We have been meeting with and listening to many cycling teams and cyclists throughout the state," Iowa's Ride said on its Facebook page Friday morning. "We have received some great feedback to help shape IOWA’S RIDE.
"The most overwhelming concern that keeps coming up is the date of the event and how it is dividing longstanding cycling teams. We have even heard from teams trying to decide who gets the team bus for the week. This was never our intent, and this is not good for anyone who just wants to ride their bike."
The organizers are also reversing course on the planned route. The ride will now begin on the eastern edge of the state, in a "Mississippi River town," and go to the western edge. The exact route has yet to be announced.
RAGBRAI senior marketing manager Anne Lawrie said Friday that she's pleased the competing ride is now on a different week. She said some cyclists had requested the new ride run the week before RAGBRAI, allowing the most dedicated riders to participate in both events.
The direction of Iowa's Ride is also significant, Lawrie said, giving cyclists a chance to finish that ride before joining RAGBRAI at its western starting point. RAGBRAI traditionally runs west to east so that riders don't have to pedal against the prevailing winds and into the afternoon sun.
"This is the outcome that we were hoping for, that there wouldn’t be two rides on the same week," Lawrie said. "This is good news for Iowa."
T.J. Juskiewicz of Iowa's Ride said during a town hall in Ames earlier this month that his event had to be the same week as RAGBRAI because riders already requested vacation for the last week in July.
In Friday's statement, Iowa's Ride said cyclists who already have registered for the ride can get a refund if they don't want to participate on the earlier date.
Juskiewicz was RAGBRAI's director from 2005 until early October, when he left to start the competing ride. He tied his departure to controversy over the Register's coverage of 24-year-old Carson King, the Altoona resident whose sign on ESPN's "College GameDay" requesting beer money went viral in September, leading to a charity campaign that raised about $3 million for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital.
Pete Phillips, co-owner of the charter company Pork Belly Ventures, said he will not provide his services to Iowa's Ride. Even though the events are no longer on the same week, Phillips said Pork Belly Ventures cannot work two rides so close together.
"We can’t do this ride the week before RAGBRAI and still be in a position to do RAGBRAI," said Phillips, whose company provided services to about 1,700 riders this year. "RAGBRAI takes every friend, every family member, every favor we have. It really takes everything we have just to manage RAGBRAI."
Bikes to You Owner Craig Cooper, who previously pledged to work with Iowa's Ride, is not sure whether he will also support RAGBRAI next year. For about 25 years, Bikes to You has serviced bicycles on the ride. Cooper also offers bunk houses for participants who want to sleep inside rather than in a tent.
Cooper said he will reserve judgment about the next iteration of RAGBRAI until he learns who will direct the ride. He said he is concerned that the logistics of a statewide ride will be difficult to handle unless an experienced director takes over.
He was not surprised by the Iowa's Ride announcement on Friday.
"It was difficult for friends and family to make a decision on which way they were going to go," he said. "Quite honestly, there were social media posts that said [Iowa's Ride's schedule] was a vindictive measure."
At least twice in the past month, Juskiewicz has said a third party has attempted to mediate a compromise between him and RAGBRAI representatives.
Juskiewicz has not returned multiple messages from the Des Moines Register asking him to identify the third party. Lawrie said Friday she was not aware of any mediation attempts.
She said she expects to announce a new RAGBRAI director as well as "key staff" for the ride in the next couple of weeks. Registration for both events is open.
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