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Iowa's Ride director to take new job in Arizona

Former RAGBRAI director says planning underway for 2021 ride in Iowa

Cyclists ride up a hill south of Chariton during Day 4 of RAGBRAI on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cyclists ride up a hill south of Chariton during Day 4 of RAGBRAI on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Former RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz, who resigned in October to launch a now-postponed alternative bike ride across Iowa, is leaving Iowa to head an Arizona bike event.

On July 1, Juskiewicz will start a “new chapter” as executive director of El Tour de Tucson in Tucson, a 40-year-old ride planned for November.

Juskiewicz said conversations on new leadership for Iowa’s Ride were ongoing, but no timeline has been set to name a new director.

The new ride, which created a wedge in the state’s biking community, was called off this summer due to concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

Juskiewicz wrote in a post to Iowa Ride’s Facebook page that he was excited about the Tucson opportunity.

“El Tour is one of the country’s top cycling events and part of the culture of cycling in Arizona,” he said, noting the ride has raised more than $100 million for charitable organizations in its 40-year history.

Juskiewicz had been the director of Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa for 16 years before he and three other organizers resigned in October.

The four wrote a scathing letter criticizing Gannett, the Register’s owner, for preventing them from criticizing the Register’s reporting of decade-old racist tweets from Carson King, who raised millions of dollars for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

In coordination with his resignation, Juskiewicz launched a new weeklong bike ride — Iowa’s Ride — and Juskiewicz promised all profits from the ride would go to charities. The move divided bicyclists and vendors over whether to stay with the long-standing RAGBRAI, go with the new one or attempt both.

Both RAGBRAI and Iowa’s Ride said this year, after canceling rides this summer, they would keep the same routes in 2021.

Juskiewicz said he would return for the 2021 “semi-supported” Iowa’s Ride, set to run from Dubuque to Rock Rapids on July 18 to 24.

It will be a smaller group, Juskiewicz said, open to the roughly 1,500 people who signed up for the ride this summer. Registration is free, he said, as long as people pay it forward by purchasing food and other items from local retailers. Few to no outside food vendors will be set up, he added, to boost business for local restaurants and retailers.

Iowa’s Ride had refunded 75 percent of registrants’ fees for this summer’s event. The 2021 ride, he said, would have fewer, but not zero, law enforcement officers and marked signs.

“It won’t be all the bells and whistles people are accustomed to” with RAGBRAI, Juskiewicz said. “The whole idea is to support the towns that are planning on hosting the event this year.”

Juskiewicz said Iowa’s Ride “certainly” plans a ride in 2022, but details need to be nailed down, including a date.

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“Talking to folks, it’ll probably be a slightly different format and slightly different time of year, ...” he said. “2022 we’re getting back on our feet because it’s so hard to tell, you know, this whole thing with COVID and everything going on in the world. It just seems like there’s so much uncertainty. Certainly the plan is to do 2022, but you know, who knows?”

Comments: (319) 398-8370; sarah.watson@thegazette.com

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