RAGBRAI Training: What’s the Difficulty of this Year’s Route and How Should You Prepare?
What’s the difficulty of this year’s RAGBRAI route and how should you prepare? Now that the overnight towns for this year’s RAGBRAI have been announced, we can begin to understand how easy or difficult the ride might be. However, some things are for certain with any RAGBRAI.
First, it will be hot and humid so you need to be acclimated for that (but you can wait for winter to end before preparing for that).
Second, there will be some days that seem longer than others due to the wind, heat, accumulated fatigue or hills.
Third, you should do plenty of training to get ready for RAGBRAI and the training this year isn’t all that different from other years because all RAGBRAIs have some things in common: they are long, they have hills, they will be hot, and you will get more tired with each passing day.
Okay, with all those disclaimers out of the way, let’s take a look at this year’s route and put it in perspective with other routes in past years. Don’t be lulled into complacency at the headline that this year’s RAGBRAI is only 454 miles and is the 14th shortest on record. While shorter than average, it’s only 18 miles shorter to be exact, and after 454 miles, believe me you won’t miss those extra 18. 454 miles is still a long way to ride a bike in a week! However, it is also the 16th hilliest route, so don’t let the shorter distance fool you. What it lacks in distance it makes up in hills. This year’s route is rated as the 22nd most difficult route out of 39, so fairly mid-pack.
What is a little unusual is that all the days are fairly close to 70 miles. Some years there are long days and shorter days mixed in. This will be a fairly consistent set of daily rides. Of course as always there will be the Karras loop available for those who want to do a century ride on one of the days.
So what does all this mean? It means that you need to prepare for RAGBRAI like always. What that means is you should ride your bike before you head off to RAGBRAI, and you should ride quite a lot. I’d recommend shooting for at least 900 miles of riding before you get to Glenwood on July 24. You will also want to prepare for hills as this ride will have more than its share of them. The good news though, if you don’t like really long days, the longest is ‘only’ 75 miles on Day 6. So no need to have to be able to tackle an 80 or 90 mile day. Just remember, as with all RAGBRAI’s the better you prepare, the more fun you’ll have.
Keep watching back here for more specific training tips as the season rolls along. But for now all you need to worry about is getting active, or staying active. Try to do some riding either outside or indoors, or do some other activity which involves getting your heart rate up for an extended period of time, so any aerobic exercise is great such as jogging, swimming, XC skiing, hiking, snowshoeing and the like.
Coach David Ertl
David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and owner of Cyclesport Coaching. He coaches individual cyclists, the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and the JDRF Greater Iowa Chapter for the Ride to Cure Diabetes. He can be contacted at Coach@CyclesportCoaching.com