Registration is now closed for RAGBRAI XLIX. Transfers are now open!

Can the DMR replace the RAGBRAI staff in time?

Normally, the Director’s right hand person would be the natural successor. But in this case, the entire full-time staff walked en mass. There are so many moving pieces that make RAGBRAI go smoothly and there are so many questions yet to be answered.

* Is it even realistic to complete a candidate search and hire a new Director, who then needs to source, hire and onboard a brand new team?
* Do any of the remaining part-time staff have the experience to step into a leadership role and rebuild a team? Or are they most lower-level administrative folks?
* Is there anyone in an existing management capacity at the DMR who could step in, or would even want to? I would think most of the staff are journalists, and have no experience in the area of sporting event management.
* Is any part of the 2020 route locked down? Sounds like Iowa’s Ride is very close, so I assume TJ’s route will be the intended RAGBRAI route…in which case, RAGBRAI will have to start from scratch. Again, with time as a factor, how’s this going to work?
* If not, can the remnants of remaining part-time staff do all the recon work, community outreach and logistical planning to create a workable one?
* What about the myriad of other details (kybos, merchandise, Expo, jersey design, vendor management, campsites, ISL coverage, baggage transfer, vehicle routes, guiding and managing the overall effort, the announcement party planning in DSM, the registration process, the website, production and delivery of rider credentials, etc.)? Is there anyone who knows how to do this stuff?
* Since RAGBRAI relies heavily on volunteers, most of whom are experienced with a few RAGBRAI’s under their belts. I assume TJ and staff have carefully built & nurtured these relationships…so if many/most volunteers switch to Iowa’s Ride, how is RAGBRAI going to fill that void?

This can’t be done as a seat-of-the-pants effort by people with no real experience. This is a major event with extremely complex logistics. RAGBRAI 2020 has the potential to be an amateurish quagmire.

59 Replies

Jboz, October 17, 2019 at 7:41 am

In any event, the DMR’s Kevin Bacon-esque “Remain calm…all is well” assurances that RAGBRAI will proceed without a hitch just isn’t enough. Most of the RAGBRAI riders community plans their vacation time a year in advance around this. The DMR owes it to this community to outline a workable plan ASAP to outline us exactly what they are doing to address this debacle, and how they are going to resolve it to make RAGBRAI work as well as it did under TJ.


KenH, October 17, 2019 at 7:54 am

In short, I think the DMR can pull this off. There are just as many significant hurdles for TJ to clear in order for him to get his ride put together in time. There is also the issue that the DMR is doing nothing illegal if they use their own resources to put together an event they have hosted for decades. The same cannot be said with certainty about TJ’s ride. That would have to be decided by a court if the DMR chooses to pursue that course.

To be sure a lot of the top level tribal knowledge of how to do this left with TJ and his staff. But all the boots on the ground, day by day tribal knowledge is well dispersed across Iowa’s many small towns and cities. I doubt that this year’s RAGBRAI will be up to recent standards but I do not doubt that it can be pulled off in a very satisfying fashion.

One other thing to consider is that there are other cross state rides and probably other similar rides in other countries. They all have ride directors and many of those people would consider TJ’s job to be their dream job.

TJ’s job is now open….


Niles, October 17, 2019 at 8:22 am

Even TJ is doing everything Noble, I don’t know if his RAGBRAI employment contract has a non-compete clause, which could shut down his ride effectively and immediately.


Corey, October 17, 2019 at 9:04 am

Did anyone else happen to notice that the number of people listed on the ‘Our Team’ page of iowasride website has changed from three to two since the site went live on Tuesday? I swear there were three people listed, but I don’t remember for sure. If that is the case, it might be telling, but maybe I’m remembering incorrectly.


Jboz, October 17, 2019 at 9:08 am

Re: employment contract, I wondered the same thing. But I am under an employment contract which I was required to sign, and am required to do so each year. When you are subject to one, you are well aware of it. I assume that if TJ was subject to one, he would know it. I also assume that he consulted with an attorney before he made this move. Also, if TJ were subject to a non-compete, the DMR would have aggressively enforced it by now and he would be standing down. I suspect that the DMR never really even considered a mass defection and a competing ride as a possibility, thus never had him sign a non-compete contract.


David, October 17, 2019 at 10:43 am

[quote quote=1311936]I swear there were three people listed, but I don’t remember for sure.[/quote]

You are correct. Andrea Parrott was there yesterday.


Larry Klaaren, October 17, 2019 at 10:54 am

Wow! IMHO the podcast needs Andrea Parrot, and she seemed to be the one in the know about merchandise and that sort of thing. She was saying she had to manage something like 21 trucks the first and last day.


biking mama, October 17, 2019 at 1:09 pm

Questions for those of you living in Iowa. What is your sense of the general public’s level of support for the DMR? Would communities/vendors/charitable partners from previous years in the state balk at being part of (either as pass thru or overnight towns) RAGBRAI due to its association with the DMR?


Tony, October 17, 2019 at 1:45 pm

AS I said in another post. The logistics of this ride are very large. You need a staff that have contacts and knowledge of regional capabilities. You are not going to pull people from other events that have the knowledge. If it was just TJ. The new director would have old staff that would pull up to the plate. But in this case the staff went with. This speaks volumes against the DMR/Gannett. For the staff to resign with TJ. I would have to conclude Gannett Media was pushing all their buttons. It’s just better that the ride goes non-profit. It really to the advantage of riders, Iowa, TJ, and staff. It keeps big brother out of the control loop. It will allow TJ more options about the ride. As an example he has already dropped the lottery. I do feel Iowa can benefit from the new ride. I even think Iowa can support both events. I also feel if Gannet sets its legal hounds on TJ. It would be a grave mistake. Gannett like most media corps. Its all about saving face and profits. I believe TJ taking the new ride in a non-profit status is a very smart move. Riders love the idea the ride helps Iowans. Having all the proceeds go to charities is just the right thing to do. Gannett will/would never do this. I do not see any town in Iowa. Passing up the chance to have 10,000 plus riders as guest for the day. It just will not happen. As for logistics. There are only 4 EMT trucks. There are plenty of EMT services to supply that contract. Plus all the local service that step up. Same for the law enforcement. Vendors, well there are just to many to count to begin with. Many being local. So I don’t believe that is an issue ether. The bike companies and cycling equipment folks. Will just look at it as another event to sell their goods. TJ has both the seasoned staff and backing to pull this off. Gannett for the moment only has its marketing staff. The clock is ticking against them.


Carl Anderson, October 17, 2019 at 8:35 pm

Yes,I did and it makes me wonder, that was the first thing I noticed. Iam wondering if the DMR is recruiting or simply stating facts.


Sunflower, October 18, 2019 at 12:08 am

@biking mama

The Register is a blue tribe. So among people with political sensitivities you’ll find exactly what you’d expect. I doubt the animus has become large enough yet for it to be crippling but its certainly headed in that direction. I’m sure the King incident was many Iowan’s first concrete experience with the spawn of the Justine Sacco defenestration so I doubt that the temperature has yet risen broadly.


Sandaltan ., October 18, 2019 at 8:51 am

According to KNXO’s poll the newspaper has the most stink on its hands, 73 percent, in the handling of the Carson King story.



KenH, October 18, 2019 at 1:07 pm

“But in this case the staff went with. This speaks volumes against the DMR/Gannett.”

I presume that two, maybe even three, of that staff could be bought back if the Register were prepared to make a sweet enough offer….


Larry Klaaren, October 18, 2019 at 1:25 pm

There are other good rides out there. There are people with lots of experience directing other rides that might be interested in a well-resourced ride. Add a little salary enticement and an experienced crew could be here soon enough.


Anonymous, October 18, 2019 at 3:54 pm

I’m in Iowa @bikingmama. I think most people feel that the Register was hypocritical in handling the Carson King story. It might have blown over, but Editor Carol Hunter’s sanctimonious justification of it was like throwing gasoline on the fire, especially when it came out that the Register apparently doesn’t hold its own employees up to the same standard. Then she goes and throws her own employee under the same bus! Many of us have had enough of this duplicity and moralizing. The exception (and I suspect this is where support for RAGBRAI is coming from) is diehard lefties for whom everything, even a bike ride, is about politics and racial injustice. These people will never be happy until the rest of us are as miserable as they are.


Viewing 15 replies - 1 through 15 (of 59 total)

The forum ‘RAGBRAI XLVII – 2019’ is closed to new topics and replies.






Gatherings & Meetings

Lost and Found


Clubs, Teams & Charters

Friends of RAGBRAI