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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 21, 2018

‘Easy’ RAGBRAI means economic boon for Iowa towns

By B.A. Morelli, The Gazette | Jan 29, 2018

DES MOINES — Iowa City area officials say they are anticipating an economic boost from RAGBRAI and its hordes of bike riders and spectators expected to roll through in July.

Iowa City will be the overnight stop on day six — July 27 — of the seven-day non-competitive Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

By RAGBRAI standards, day six will be a short and flat ride — 57.6 miles and 1,413 feet of climb — from Sigourney.

That’s a good thing for the area, said Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“Anytime you host, you hope for a short day into your town,” Schamberger said. “That means more time people can spend in your town and check out your businesses.”

Organizers on Saturday night announced anchor towns for the 46th installment of RAGBRAI. Billed as a return to Central Iowa, the bike ride will begin July 22 in Onawa and end July 28 in Davenport. That is the same day as the Quad-City Times Bix 7 road race.

Denison, Jefferson, Ames, Newton, Sigourney and Iowa City will serve as the overnight towns in the middle of the 428-mile route that organizers call the fourth easiest in the ride’s 46-year history.

The first three days follow the Highway 30 corridor, then the route dips south of Interstate 80 for the last four.

Daily mileages range from 43.3 on the low end — on the first day from Onawa to Denison, which also will feature a gravel portion — to 71.7 on the high end, from Denison to Jefferson on day two.

Day five — Newton to Sigourney — will include an optional loop to bring the mileage total to 100 miles, or a century in cycling lingo.

“It’s not too long. It’s not too hard,” RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz said. “We want people to get off their bikes. When you are climbing hills all day, it takes a lot out of you. There’s a good economic impact when there’s less time in the saddle.”

“Still, it’s 428 miles, and you never know about the weather,” he added.

David Morgan and Senad Zenkovic, both of Des Moines, participate in RAGBRAI as part of a group called Team Party Pants. The route announcement has them looking forward to the summer.

“I love being on my bike for seven days straight,” Morgan said. “It’s more of a mental challenge than a physical one to put yourself back on your bike each day. But there’s no other way to get from town to town.”

Juskiewicz pointed out the natural “Cy-Hawk rivalry ride” dynamic with the University of Iowa in Iowa City and Iowa State University in Ames both on the rides.

The inclusion of both towns could ramp up alumni participation, as well the ribbing.

“It will be fun for alumni of both schools,” said Seann Demaris, sports and leisure sales manager for the Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There’s already banter between the two cities, but we both have great respect for each other.”

“Everybody, no matter whether or not you live in Ames or anywhere else in the state, you truly do grow up wanting to be a Hawkeye, so it’s nice they will have a chance to be a Hawkeye for the day and stay in Iowa City,” Schamberger said, serving up the first volley. “It’s going to be an awesome experience.”

Schamberger, who’s helped Coralville plan several RAGBRAI visits, will take a key role in overseeing the operation, which entails finding grounds for thousands of people to camp, lining up food, music, security, shuttles and more.

While plans are not set in stone, one possibility is for City Park and Napoleon Park to be used as the main campgrounds. Downtown Iowa City likely would be the heart of entertainment, with organizers considering duplicating a successful block party event in which downtown streets were closed to vehicles and open alcoholic beverage rules were eased for one night last June.

Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin, who was instrumental in making the pitch to host, said RAGBRAI can bring a $1 million economic impact, and the plan is to prioritize local businesses to reap the benefits.

While the bike ride passed through Iowa City last in 2015, the last time it stopped there overnight was 1976.

“The work begins now,” he said. “It’s special for us because it’s been 42 years. We are going to do everything we can to be great hosts for riders.”

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