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RAGBRAI Training: 2022 RAGBRAI XLIX Route Analysis

  • 8 April, 2022

The RAGBRAI XLIX route has been announced!  This article will discuss some of the features of this year’s course, specifically as it relates to things you might want to consider when preparing yourself for this ride.  Details about the daily routes and attractions are available on the RAGBRAI website.

This year’s RAGBRAI is a 462-mile jaunt across Iowa on a bicycle, under your own power (unless you have an eBike, then its only partially under your own power) from July 24-30. It has a total of 12,945 feet of climbs and will be the first since 1984 to feature a 100-mile Century Day, instead of an optional added-mileage loop.  Here’s an overview of the entire course and daily statistics.

There are a number of factors that influence the challenge of this year’s course, everything from distance, hills, heat, humidity and headwinds.  But for this discussion we will focus on the mileage and climbing issues as those are ones you can have a big impact on through training.

First we’ll address the distance.  RAGBRAI is a 7 day trip, across the whole state of Iowa.  Distance is a hot topic this year with the announcement of the Century day on Day 4.  The overall ride distance of 462 is about typical although a bit longer than some in previous years.  On average, that’s 66 miles per day, but that’s not how it’s actually distributed. The longest day is, ahem, 105 miles on Day 4 followed the next day by the shortest day (48 miles).  So there are two things to consider – one is being able to ride 105 miles in one day, and the other is being able to ride a long way for seven days in a row.  There’s two ways to approach these.

First, to be able to ride 105 miles, you will need to work your way up to longer rides during your training, adding to your longest ride each week.  I’ve addressed how to prepare for this in previous blogs here and here.  Second, in order to prepare your body to pedal your bike seven days in a row, you should work on this in training as well.  One way to work on this is to ride as many days each week as you can. This will help both your body and mind get used to the idea of getting on your bike each day and riding, even on days when you don’t particularly feel like it.  Now don’t think I’m telling you to ride every day in training as it is important to build in some days off to allow your body to recover. But don’t try to jam all your riding into the two weekend days and then not ride all week, if you can avoid it.  The other way you can prepare for sequential days of long rides is to use your weekends (if you work on weekdays) to get in two long back-to-back rides.  You will notice that the second day your body will be somewhat tired and it will feel harder to ride when tired.  So I’d recommend getting your longer ride in on Saturday and then following up with a shorter ride on Sunday, for example 60 miles, then 40 miles. This will get you accustomed to pedaling while somewhat fatigued. It’s also a great way to build endurance.

Next let’s look at the amount of hills and climbing.  If you haven’t been here, you may think Iowa is flat. It is, compared to Colorado, but not flat like Florida.  You will notice there are more hills on the first day as we leave the Missouri River valley and on the last two days as we approach the Mississippi River on the other end.  The first day, when you are fresh, is the second hilliest day with 2545 feet of climbing. The last day of RAGBRAI is the hilliest day with 2966 feet of total climbing, so save something for the end.  But look at the bright side, that last day is downhill, on average, as you descend to Lansing along the Mighty Mississip.

A couple of comments about the climbing numbers.  One, these are totals for the entire day and week. They don’t all occur in one big hill, so you will get some reprieve between climbs to recover. Both Day 1 and Day 7 have the climbing broken into several climbs throughout the day. If you look at the elevation over on the left side of the graph, you will see that the largest climb on Day 7 is 400 feet, not 2966. There are only two long climbs, the rest of the elevation comes in lots of very small hills. So you will tackle the entire elevation in bits and pieces throughout the day. Now this isn’t to say it will be easy, but you need to take hills one at a time and not obsess about total climbing for the whole day.  Two, when you look at these elevation graphs, they look really jagged but don’t freak out.  These graphs make the hills look much steeper than they actually are. These graphs fit the space allotted so they make them look steep.  I’ve addressed tactics for training for hills, even if you don’t have any where you live, in a previous blogs such as this one.

So if you weren’t motivated to get out there and start training, hopefully you are now.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: . He can be contacted

1 Comment

  1. Thom M

    Do you have more info on what to expect on the optional gravel day on Day 3? 1st time rider and i thought doing a gravel day could be fun but want to know more so I can properly prepare for it. Thanks

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