MASON CITY, Iowa - On Tuesday, many key organizers of the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, also known as RAGBRAI, including Director T.J. Juskiewicz and his staff, announced that they were leaving the event to start their own - Iowa's Ride, which will be held next July during the same week as RAGBRAI.
The news comes amid backlash regarding the Des Moines Register's handling of a story involving fundraiser Carson King, with the backlash creating a public relations problem for RAGBRAI, which faced some calls for a boycott.
In an online statement, Juskiewicz says, “I have always been totally transparent with the RAGBRAI Nation and have earned their trust since my first day in 2003. In these past few weeks, my efforts to communicate with our loyal riders has been consistently blocked as it did not mesh with the company’s PR narrative to spin the Carson King embarrassment. There are hundreds of questions that have been left unanswered in attempted to save face for the Register, without regard to how it effects RAGBRAI.”
Despite the split, Gannett, the newspaper's parent company, plans to continue the ride.
With Mason City submitting a bid to be a host city for RAGBRAI, would there be enough room for two, and would more riders move to the new ride, or stick with the soon-to-be 47-year old statewide bike ride?
For the better part of the last nearly 15 years, Gary Herrig has been an active participant in RAGBRAI, thanks to a goal between him and his younger brother, who was in a coma at the time.
"If there's some miracle that Tim comes out of his coma, we're going to ride RAGBRAI. Got on the plane and came home, and when I got home, I found out he got out of his coma. In 2005, we started riding RAGBRAI."
He understands the reasons why the RAGBRAI leadership split up to form their own ride. However, he has questions regarding the stability of both rides, as there are logistics issues such as routes and overlapping dates. For now, he has not yet decided which ride to take up next summer.
"If the two routes...how far are they going to be from each other? I would like to see that information because I don't know how I feel about either."
As well as for those towns and communities that have already placed their bids to be host stops.
"The timeframe is going to be interesting because there is a lot of coordination that goes on between the RAGBRAI planners and communities. And not just the stayover communities, but the drive through communities, the pass-through communities."
And if RAGBRAI or Iowa's Ride can truly work after the split.
"It's always been promoted. Is it still that, and if so, which one? Which one of those groups can lay claim to that?"
Across town at Wayne's Ski & Cycle, manager Chad Colby feels that the organizers reasons to split were justified.
"It was their personal choice to follow what they believed and create something they felt was the legacy. In general, to continue to grow cycling and not just walk away from what they've done completely."
And he feels that having another option may be beneficial to Iowa's cycling community.
"To see whether to see the hardcore people are going to stick with the titled RAGBRAI, or sticking with the people that have been running it for so long, I think it's going to be one of those time will tell things next year."
Visit Mason City Executive Director Lindsey James, who helped put the bid together for the city to be a host stop on July's RAGBRAI route, says it's too early to say what, if anything, will happen with their bid.
Next month, Iowa's Ride will announce their route. It is planned to run through the Northern part of the state. RAGBRAI's route will be announced in January.
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