Community

Iowa City among communities hoping for RAGBRAI visit

Announcement of route comes at 9 p.m. Saturday

The Gazette

RAGBRAI bicyclists take a break in July 2015 to dance on Iowa Avenue in Iowa City. Coralville and Hiawatha hosted overnight stops that year, and Iowa City and other cities in Iowa’s midsection are hoping to be overnight stops this year. The route will be announced Saturday night in Des Moines.
The Gazette RAGBRAI bicyclists take a break in July 2015 to dance on Iowa Avenue in Iowa City. Coralville and Hiawatha hosted overnight stops that year, and Iowa City and other cities in Iowa’s midsection are hoping to be overnight stops this year. The route will be announced Saturday night in Des Moines.
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IOWA CITY — Several Iowa communities, particularly central-belt towns like Newton, Grinnell, Iowa City and Davenport, are sending hopeful delegations to the RAGBRAI route announcement party in Des Moines on Saturday night to learn if they will be included in the midsummer bike ride across Iowa.

Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin will be among about 20 people from the Iowa City-Coralville area in attendance.

This would be the first time the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa stops overnight in Iowa City since 1976. This year’s ride is scheduled for July 22-28.

“Biking is very much part of our identify, and I think we are a natural fit for RAGBRAI,” Fruin said, noting Iowa City annually hosts the Old Capitol Criterium and the Jingle Cross bike race. “It’s a shame it’s been 42 years. It’s time to break that streak and welcome the 10,000-plus riders into Iowa City.”

Fruin rode RAGBRAI in 2011 shortly before taking a position in Iowa City and has been interested in hosting the ride for the past few years.

If Iowa City is chosen, he said, leaders from Coralville, which has hosted RAGBRAI several times, would be a resource in planning.

No one knows for sure where RAGBRAI will stop, but community leaders from a number of towns say they are expecting a central route putting their towns in prime position to host.

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The route generally rotates between the northern, southern and central regions of Iowa, and the last two years have been in the north and south parts of the state.

“I don’t know anything, but we are hopeful,” said Rachael Kinnick, director of the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce. “We applied last fall, rushed to put all the information in and then have been waiting to see if we will be part of the route. Seems like it may go on a central route, but we were not given an indication.”

Danielle Rogers, community marketing manager for Newton, said the Newton application highlighted the completion of the Iowa Speedway, improvements to downtown and the parks system, and community support for large events.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Rogers said. “Newton has grown quite a lot since 2006 (when RAGBRAI last stopped overnight). A lot has changed.”

Around 9 p.m. Saturday, attendees, as well as those following online and social media, will learn which eight communities will serve as the starting and ending towns, as well as six overnight stops of the 46th edition of RAGBRAI. The full route will be announced at a later date.

The annual bike ride draws tens of thousands of participants and spectators from around the country and globe for seven days of bike riding from Iowa’s western border to its eastern one. The route changes each year, and anticipation builds as to where RAGBRAI will go, building the hype surrounding the announcement.

“Mostly it is the riders of RAGBRAI,” RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz said of who attends. “It gives the opportunity in the middle of winter to see friends and start thinking about summer. In nine years, it’s grown tremendously.”

Juskiewicz estimates a crowd of about 1,500 people at the event, which is being held at the Iowa Events Center. The event features music, food and drinks, and a silent auction benefiting the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Earlier in the day is a large bike expo in the Iowa Events Center.

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For communities, inclusion in RAGBRAI is a chance to highlight accomplishments and changes, as well as to get an economic boost from the horde of cyclists and spectators.

“I’d be more surprised if we do not receive it,” said Joe Taylor, president and chief executive of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We worked hard in inviting them and rolled out the red carpet in 2011 and 2015. But, even if you don’t get it, you still try.”

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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