On a January weekend marked by weather warm enough to comfortably ride, RAGBRAI announced its return to central Iowa.
The 2018 Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which will take place from July 22 to 28, will start in Onawa and end in Davenport. In between, riders will stop overnight in Denison, Jefferson, Ames, Newton, Sigourney and Iowa City.
Coming in at 428.1 miles and about 12,576 feet of climb, this summer’s route should be fairly easy compared to past rides. It will stack up to be the fourth flattest in RAGBRAI’s 46-year history, and the seventh shortest.
Sticking mostly to the U.S. Highway 30 corridor of the state for the first three days, riders will turn south on the fourth day on their way to Newton. They will continue south on the fifth day to Sigourney before turning back north on the sixth day to stop overnight in Iowa City.
The full route, including pass-through towns and specific roads, is expected to be released in March.
The 2018 ride promises to feature a new kind of Cy-Hawk rivalry. For the first time in RAGBRAI history, both Iowa City and Ames will be overnight stops on the same route, meaning riders will have the opportunity to experience the Hawkeye State’s two biggest college towns in the span of one week.
Iowa City is making only its second appearance as an overnight town, having hosted riders just once in 1976. (Riders have passed through Iowa City many times, most recently in 2015.) Ames was a host in 1973, 1983 and 2008.
The route will start in one of the least populated towns — Onawa, with about 3,000 residents — and end in a most populous one — Davenport, with almost 100,000 city dwellers. Sigourney, with a population of just over 2,000, is the tiniest spot on the 2018 route.
RAGBRAI hasn’t featured a majority of central Iowa towns since 2015.
In 2017, the route went north, hugging the Minnesota border on its way from Orange City to Lansing. The year before, the route went south, from Glenwood to Muscatine. And in 2015, the route returned to its 1973 origins, tracing roads from Sioux City to Davenport.
About 200 towns expressed interest in being an overnight stop during this summer’s ride, said RAGBRAI’s director T.J. Juskiewicz.
“The overnight towns are the backbone of the RAGBRAI experience,” Juskiewicz said. “Each night is different with different campgrounds, foods and entertainment. Each night is a different adventure.”
About 10,000 registered riders, with participants from hailing all 50 states and a host of international locations, descend on Iowa every year to be part of the “oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world,” according to the RAGBRAI website.
RAGBRAI was founded in 1973 by two Des Moines Register columnists, Donald Kaul and John Karras.
The deadline to register for the ride is Feb. 15.
Saturday, July 21: Onawa
History: Sixth time as host; previously kicked off the ride in 1977, 1983, 1987, 1995 and 2004.
Sunday, July 22: Denison
Mileage (from Onawa): 43.3
Climb: 1,558 feet
History: Third overnight visit, previous ones were in 1987 and 2001.
Monday, July 23: Jefferson
Mileage (from Dension): 71.7
Climb: 2,527 feet
History: Fourth overnight visit, previous ones were in 1976, 1989 and 2008.
Tuesday, July 24: Ames
Mileage (from Jefferson): 58.9
Climb: 997 feet
History: Fourth overnight visit, previous ones were in 1973, 1983 and 2008.
Wednesday, July 25: Newton
Mileage (from Ames): 59.1
Climb: 1,777 feet
History: Third overnight visit, previous ones were in 1975 and 2006.
Thursday, July 26: Sigourney
Mileage (from Newton): 68.6
History: Third overnight visit, previous ones were in 1975 and 1995.
Friday, July 27: Iowa City
Mileage (from Sigourney): 57.6
Climb: 1,413 feet
History: Second overnight visit, first since 1976.
Saturday, July 28: Davenport
Mileage (from Iowa City): 68.9
Climb: 1, 585
History: Fifth time as host; previously marked the end of the ride in 1973, 1982, 2011 and 2015.