RAGBRAI will continue its 48th ride across Iowa in 2020, despite staff resignations

The marketing team behind the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, more commonly known as RAGBRAI, resigned Tuesday.

In tandem with their resignation, the former staff announced a new bike ride, Iowa’s Ride, which is set to cross Iowa on July 19-25, the same week that RAGBRAI 2020 is scheduled.

Officials at Gannett, the parent company of the Register, say RAGBRAI is not going anywhere.

“We’ll continue RAGBRAI’s longstanding tradition in 2020 with another great bicycle ride and strong partnerships with Iowa communities to raise money for good causes. Our commitment remains to donate $50,000 to the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital,” said Andy Yost, chief marketing officer of Gannett. “We’re proud of the good RAGBRAI has done for the state since 1973.”

Asked whether Gannett plans to take legal action against organizers of the proposed Iowa’s Ride, Yost said the company is exploring all legal options.

About 10,000 registered riders, with participants hailing from all 50 states and a host of international locations, descend on Iowa every year to be part of RAGBRAI, believed to be the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.

RAGBRAI was founded in 1973 by two Des Moines Register columnists, Donald Kaul and John Karras. Both bike enthusiasts, Karras and Kaul famously fell into creating the cultural behemoth.

Karras, 89, said that he was not consulted on the leadership team’s decision to resign and start a competing ride. Reached Tuesday, he said he was “dismayed” and “stunned.”

“That’s insane,” he said.

TJ Juskiewicz, who had served as RAGBRAI director for 16 years, wrote in a statement posted to RAGBRAI’s social media accounts that he and the RAGBRAI staff had resigned Tuesday.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my team,” he wrote.

Juskiewicz, who couldn’t be reached for comment, was one of four full-time members of the staff. The RAGBRAI staff also planned other bicycle events during the year, including the Pigtails, Bacoon and Big Rove rides.

Juskiewicz said in his online statement that his decision came after Gannett, which owns RAGBRAI, the Register and USA TODAY, “refused” to let him “answer the hundreds of passionate questions asked about the future of RAGBRAI following the Des Moines Register’s handling of the Carson King story.”

King is the 24-year-old Altoona resident who became a sensation after cameras caught him holding a hand-drawn sign as he stood behind the set of ESPN’s “College GameDay” in Ames on Sept. 14. Drawn on the sign, in plain black marker: “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished,” and King’s Venmo handle.

When the money poured in, far exceeding anything King had expected, he decided to donate the funds to the children’s hospital. Busch Light and Venmo pledged to match any donations, and several Iowa businesses also donated. King’s fund-raising eventually eclipsed the $3 million mark.

RAGBRAI announced on Sept. 27 that it was donating $50,000 to the children’s hospital.

A statement at the time said that in support of King’s efforts, RAGBRAI “is naming the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital as our charitable cause for the upcoming RAGBRAI events. Through the proceeds from these events, RAGBRAI will pledge $50,000 toward their $2,000,000 goal.”

Each year, approximately 20 charities receive contributions on behalf of RAGBRAI, Des Moines Register Media and the Gannett Foundation. Additionally, RAGBRAI provides financial support to the eight RAGBRAI overnight host communities.

The primary geographic focus for charitable giving is the greater Des Moines area and central Iowa. Additionally, the organization supports unique statewide initiatives with the potential to benefit all Iowans. RAGBRAI focuses its contributions on programs that address issues related to families, children and community enrichment.

Since its inception, about 400,000 people have ridden at least some part of RAGBRAI. Its route has gone through each of Iowa’s 99 counties.

A search of the Secretary of State’s website did not show that “Iowa’s Ride” or any similar spellings had been registered as a business.

Register reporter Linh Ta contributed to this story.


Bernard Schwartze, Oct 15, 2019 at 9:37 pm

Where is the Forum?

The Masked Rider, Oct 15, 2019 at 9:45 pm

I think it has been censored.

schutte65, Oct 15, 2019 at 11:10 pm

Hey Des Moines Register, don’t bother trying to have your ride this year. Anyone can see how badly you’ve handled this situation and every move you make digs your hole deeper. There is no recovering from this disaster. After 11 RAGBRAI’s, I’ll be proudly supporting Iowa’s Ride and the people who stood up to your liberal censorship. To recap, your actions so far have been to drag a young man’s name through the mud (all while he was donating $3 million to a children’s hospital), drop a bomb into what was, arguably the feel good story of 2019, ruin the reputation and career of a reporter doing your bidding and now, ruin the greatest cross state ride in history. I hope the idiotic editors who chose to run that crap are happy.

Bill Otto, Oct 16, 2019 at 5:02 am

Perhaps the business needs of the Register and Gannett have moved directions that it’s best to put personal and business concerns aside and let RAGBRAI continue on it’s own. Do the right thing and pass the ride on.

Jboz, Oct 16, 2019 at 7:34 am

Dear DMR,
The RAGBRAI Forum is (was) a place where riders can voice their opinions about cycling, the ride itself, seek advice and connect with other riders. The fact that you have shut it down speaks volumes about your organization, and the future of RAGBRAI. You have chosen to circle the wagons around the “official narrative”, and censor all dissenting voices, which is pretty much what created your current problem. What you fail to acknowledge is that the voices you have decided to silence are the very riders that you should be trying to retain. Closing down the Forum simply alienates more riders from RAGBRAI, and makes your problem worse instead of better. Not very smart, but based on the way you silenced TJ, I guess we should expect nothing less.

Mike Howe, Oct 16, 2019 at 7:50 am

Begining of the end of Ragbrai as we know it. Iowas ride and Ragbrai competing against each other is going to be a logistics nightmare. And with competing rides people are going to draw lines in the sand, take sides and both rides are going to turn into a us vs them atmosphere just like it has in politics. Maybe they drop the R off Ragbrai and somehow work out a way for TJ and his staff to continue to put the ride on.

RDaryl Daryl, Oct 16, 2019 at 8:10 am

Did anyone notice that this was the official XLVIII logo release ?

Jboz, Oct 16, 2019 at 8:26 am

Logo shows a total of 3 riders. Sounds about right.

tdolson52, Oct 16, 2019 at 8:29 am

Wow. Can you kids seriously not overcome your pride and figure this out? DMR, yes, your handling of the Carson King was stupid. TJ, guess what? The DMR has the right, just like any corporation, to control its message. If you want to exercise your 1st amendment rights then do it outside of that box. To now start a competing “ragbrai” with the obvious intent of destroying RAGBRAI is worse than…”I don’t get my way so I’m taking my ball and going home” childish. Pick sides!? You guys need to resolve this like adults, otherwise, bah, a pox on both your houses!

Jeff Sargent, Oct 16, 2019 at 8:55 am

I would like to thank the DMR employees who thought they had a journalistic obligation to bring to light two racists jokes from a then 16 year old. This action has negatively impacted so many people, on so many levels. If we all think back to that age, we all did things, and made statements that we deeply regret . Thank you very little to the SJW at the DMR.

Sandaltan ., Oct 16, 2019 at 10:00 am

Thanks for the chuckle Jboz….three riders….about right. It will require more than a couple bags of popcorn to sort this one out. Yes, RAGBRAI can continue if subsidized by Gannett, rather than self-supporting as has been the case for years, which will be a small but bitter pill to swallow for those who follow the dollar at GateHouse Media, the investment firm that ultimately owns the Des Moines Register. I vote Sioux City as the start town for IOWA’S RIDE I.


Kevin Ke, Oct 16, 2019 at 11:28 am

I give.

Sure, DMR could have handled Carson King different.

Carson King should not have posted what he did (and I do not give a damn how old he was). If someone says “thank you very much, I will give this to a charity, trust me” to millions of dollars, he should be looked into closely – very closely.

Ride Iowa should not have taken “our ball and go home” – this just look like babies.

In the end, when you split a great event like this you have nothing. They are no winners in this – trust me.

All of this is just stupid.

Chris Kane, Oct 16, 2019 at 11:37 am

Exactly tdolson52. Ragbrai has nothing to do with how the newspaper operates and the newspaper doesn’t choose the towns and route. I believe the newspaper made a mistake. I believe Carson King made a mistake. I was in the crowd at Kinnick when Carson was invited there to join in the 1st quarter wave to the hospital. It seemed we have learned from the situation and moved on. But now TJ is asking bicyclists to choose a side on an issue which he says has nothing to do with RAGBRAI. I feel sorry for Carson, now this will be around next July. RAGBRAI is Iowa’s goodwill ambassador to the world. Anyone who has rode it knows exactly what it is, and it has nothing to do with a newspaper. It’s named because DMR journalists John Karras and Don Kaul had an idea. I’m just a guy who loves bicycling, and likes to stack bike bands on my old LeMond. I don’t ride to make a statement.

Sunflower, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Warms my heart to see some of the active forum participants weigh in here. What I can’t figure out is why the DSM would hire New Yorkers to talk to Iowans. That is some special sauce right there.

Sunflower, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:11 pm

Oh, yeah, DMR. I bet Iowa’s Ride forum, when its established, has an edit function that works the very first year.

Pete Simonson, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:30 pm

Hey DMR, RAGBRAI has been made simple for you now. Run it the same dates as the IOWA RIDE. And guess what, RAGBRAI will be a northern route next year. Oh, and instead of waiting for January to tell you where the route is, I can tell you now. It will be a Northern route. I will let you know sometime in November what towns it will go through too. All of the planning and prep work will be handled by someone NOT on your payroll. All of the roads used belong to the public, so no worries there. You basically just need a spokes person of some sort, and that’s it. ALL of the logistics, planning, and prep work are taken care of for you. If you are looking for someone to take the job, just let me know. You know how to get a hold of me.

Sunflower, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:33 pm

Oh Pete, that left a mark.

Sunflower, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:45 pm

@kevin ke. Big babies that go home and tell their wife things are now in flux. Yep, got it.

Roger Schuler, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:57 pm

Shame on T.J. Juskiewicz for believing that the only way to resolve his issues with the DMR was to establish a ride to compete with RAGBRAI. Grow up and deal with this like an adult!

Dave Wedemeyer, Oct 16, 2019 at 1:12 pm

I blame Trump for all of this!

trojan99, Oct 16, 2019 at 1:32 pm

Keep politics out of this. TJ, your move is to destroy RAGBRAI. Why else organize the ride on the same day. Heck, if they were different days, I may have done both.

I guess I haven’t heard this angle, if this was a reaction to a recent event, how could a group of five have a new ride planned with website, sponsors, registration, and a route all in less than a week. Hmmm… sounds like this has been in the works for a while.

trojan99, Oct 16, 2019 at 1:37 pm

Also, good ridden to those leaving RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI needed to get a little smaller and less commercialized. Thanks for thinning out the crowds.

swiifg, Oct 16, 2019 at 1:45 pm

When I sign up for RAGBRAI in any given year, I’m riding it because I want to ride RAGBRAI, not because I want to be following TJ. Maybe all the wanna-be pros will follow TJ and his crew and the rest of us who want to ride past noon or 1:00 and enjoy the day can keep on keepin’ on.

I also wonder how the “new” route and structure was thrown together so fast. Maybe it’s what “was” going to be the RAGBRAI route?

Ken Reed, Oct 16, 2019 at 3:27 pm

Let me preface this by saying I like TJ quite a bit. However, in listening to his interview this morning on KXNO, he did not instill a ton of confidence in me that his ride will get off the ground without any legal hicups. He didn’t have straight answers to questions about sponsors or state patrol. The backing of the state patrol is key to all of this. Without their support, there is no ride and the state patrol is spread thin already. In other words, there won’t be two rides next year. In my view, there’s something we aren’t being told by either side. His interview this morning raised more questions than it did in answering any.

Kate Perkins, Oct 16, 2019 at 4:27 pm

Disclaimer: long time RAGBRAI rider, not from Iowa, only read the Register in July, don’t watch ESPN & never heard of Carson King until yesterday, so this story was definitely new to me. What I gather from this week is that TJ et al resigned because the Register would not let TJ issue a statement saying that RAGBRAI & the Register are 2 distinct entities. To further prove how distinct they are, now that he’s resigned because he’s angry at the Register, TJ is going to do his best to destroy RAGBRAI by establishing a competing ride on the exact same dates. Sorry, but am I the only person to see the irony & the contradiction in that set of actions? FYI, no one had to tell anyone outside of Iowa that RAGBRAI & the Register are not the same thing; we already knew. We don’t ride RAGBRAI because we love the Register. I have no doubt that the Register does a lot of things that I don’t agree with & I’m sure we’re not aligned politically, but it doesn’t stop me from loving RAGBRAI.

cv4133, Oct 16, 2019 at 4:51 pm

Politics are for the Iowas winter caucus not the summer bike ride. I will continue to ride and celebrate RABRAI. I predict Iowa’s Ride will be as big as Festivus Day is to Christmas. Good luck with launching your new tradition.

Steve Houston, Oct 16, 2019 at 10:26 pm

Anyone know how I can apply for TJ’s job?? That’s got to be one of the best jobs in the world!!
I’ll be there next year; Ragbrai’s too big to go away in one year.

Patrick O'Donnell, Oct 17, 2019 at 7:11 am

RAGBRAI’s moto with the guitar for 2020 may be fitting…. busking for ridership.

Joseph Schlau, Oct 17, 2019 at 5:08 pm

Kate, you stated this well.

I listened to TJ Juskiewicz’s interview on KXNO in hopes that now, freed from the chains of censorship by his former employer of 16 years, TJ would explain why I should leave RAGBRAI and move to his ride. After listening to the interview twice, I failed to hear any compelling reason to abandon RAGBRAI.

TJ started by expressing his love for the job as director for 16 years, retiring in that position and talking about the 50th anniversary. In a 2 week period he spiraled downward to the point he worked behind the scenes to create his own TJ Ride or Iowa’s Ride as he called it. The reasons why he left we’re at best vague.

He spoke of his fear that registration for 2020 would be half and he feared having to lay off his staff. This notion based only on the social media posts from the nameless and faceless Twitter Mob and nothing else he cited. He was asked why he did not even wait for registration to open to see the effects if any. To that replying his fear the controversy would resurface.

He also spoke of his frustration in not being able to go outside the accepted procedures of the public information office. A practice which is quite common in larger organizations especially in times of turmoil.

Beyond that nothing compelling that would make me want to pick his ride.

So the guy who spoke of having the best job in the world and looking forward to the 50th was not part of the newspaper controversy and free to run the 17th year at RAGBRAI. Nothing but his fears, feelings and frustrations stood in the way. RAGBRAI did not fire him, he quit after spending 2 weeks planning his ride while at the same time accepting his paycheck from RAGBRAI. He resigned in a most public manner, taking his staff with him in a manner calculated to cause the greatest disruption to the people who paid him for 16 years. Not to mention the disruption and uncertainty of riders, teams, vendors and government agencies who must choose sides.

If RAGBRAI 2020 did fail as TJ feared, he would have been justified leaving after the ride was over, knowing he, and his staff did all they could. Instead of seeing the ride through to the end in July, he leaves in a way which will make it difficult but certainly not impossible for the Register to hold RAGBRAI.

His plans for running his Iowa’s Ride in direct competition for riders, vendors, and towns at the same time as RAGBRAI was lacking in specific details or commitments.

The biggest question left unanswered was whether Iowa DOT and Iowa State Patrol will commit resources to support a second ride in the same week. At the time of the interview he had not talked to either agency. If either agency says no, the spoiler plan fails. In the interview the possibility of legal action was brought up. TJ did not consult an attorney to talk about the legal issues, but hopes some attorneys will come to his rescue (for free?) if he is sued.

The real losers in this will be the towns and vendors who will see fewer customers.

The team I am on is taking a step back and watching how this plays out over the next few months. I will go with the majority on this, but a shame that teams should even have to debate this.

If TJ is only able to attract 50% or less of the necessary riders will his fears again cause him to walk away from his own ride. Will the preregistered riders get their fee returned in time to register for another. And what of the towns, counties, contractors, and vendors. Money they spent in advance would be lost if he shows the same loyalty and commitment demonstrated of late.

The people of Iowa are pretty tolerant of the once a year traffic disruptions Ragbrai causes. 2 rides at the time may test even their patience.

Tom Dennis, Oct 18, 2019 at 11:11 am

There are no heroes in this story. The Register did indeed make a grievous mistake in how they handled the Carson King story. But T.J. has made an even bigger mistake by assuming that this won’t blow over well before registration for RAGBRAI XLVIII closes, and an even bigger one than that by believing that he can take the ride with him. I want to do the ride that’s almost a half century old, not the one that’s a wannabe by a disgruntled ex-staffer.

Randi Rogers, Oct 18, 2019 at 11:50 am

@Tom Dennis, TJ did what adults do, which is to try and work this out in private, behind closed doors. When his employer refused, he resigned. That’s how men and women handle these matters. Ride whatever the hell you want to ride, but please, grow up first. You’re in adult land now.

Tom Dennis, Oct 18, 2019 at 8:34 pm

If T.J.’s behavior–trying to ruin a tradition that long precedes his involvement with it–is what you consider to be adult, Randi, then by all means sidle on over to “adult land”, er, “Iowa’s Ride”, and best of luck with that.

RDaryl Daryl, Oct 19, 2019 at 10:30 am

Wish I took a screen shot of the 2020 logo before they took it away !!!
I’m sure it has hints to the 2020 RAGBRAI route.

Roy Frye, Oct 19, 2019 at 5:51 pm

Questions about Iowa’s Ride? Don’t bother contacting via email. They don’t reply.

Joseph Schlau, Oct 22, 2019 at 3:21 pm

R Daryl. From my understanding of the planning process, RAGBRAI has a plan of where they want to go for the current ride and at least a year in advance. They need to plan ahead considering biking suitability, road conditions, future construction plans and bids from towns to participate. When TJ walked, he took that plan with him. In his KXNO interview, he used the analogy that a football coach who moves to a new team can’t be sued when his playbook looks like the one of his former team. Interesting that he already knew his ride was going north. Just the place which seemed overdue for the next Ragbrai route. Dubuque also seemed overdue as an ending town.

Getting 1 or 2 overnight towns and even some key meeting towns lined up on TJ’s ride would be enough to disrupt Ragbrai’s plans, which may be the real plan, cause the most disruption.

Joseph Schlau, Oct 23, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Roy, perhaps you’re not asking the right
questions. The parts of the site devoted to spending your money, like registration, merchandise, and charter groups are working just fine. Just have a credit card handy.

The parts dealing with answering questions and transparency. Not up yet.

The link I am waiting for is the donation site for the statue of TJ. It’s never too early to start thinking of that lasting memorial to his character and leadership in trying to destroy Ragbrai. His inspiring picture is available to view just in case you missed the dozens of interviews and photos. Maybe this is the model for the statue to himself.

Tom Adams, Oct 25, 2019 at 6:05 pm

I’ve been in China for the last 2 weeks so I was unaware what was happening. I can’t believe TJ is such a cry baby. I have no doubt that his “Iowa Ride” is already DEAD even though he probably won’t admit it. GO RAGBRAI!!!

David Cover, Oct 25, 2019 at 8:20 pm

I see legal problems for TJ, et al. I would not be surprised if an action for an injunction and a temporary restraining order is filed against him and his compatriots. They were in fiduciary positions on behalf of the entity organizing and operating RAGBRAI; much like directors and officers of a corporation are subject to those legal principles. They cannot be working against the interests of their employer/principal while self-dealing in their own interests. They were planning their new ride during the same time solely for the purpose of bringing down RAGBRAI (no other reason). They breached those duties of loyalty by usurping for themselves a private opportunity and were doing so while receiving paychecks from the RAGBRAI organization. If they had simply resigned and then later decided to compete, it might be different. The fact that they resigned with a supposed justification could simply be a ruse for wanting to start their own ride and compete against or destroy RAGBRAI. He/they could also be sued for tortious interference with a prospective economic opportunity (interfering with RAGBRAI’s legitimate right and opportunity to engage in an economic opportunity). They announced the Iowa Ride for the same week, they knew the probable northern route for 2020, they probably took some proprietary business and marketing information belonging to RAGBRAI, and they likely have all of the contact information as to vendors, organizers, etc. As Joseph Schlau pointed out, RAGBRAI did not fire him; he quit after spending two weeks planning his ride while at the same time accepting his paycheck from RAGBRAI. He even took his entire staff with him, so they are equally complicit. His actions were egregious and intentionally harmful to RAGBRAI such that punitive damages may also be claimed. I don’t know how he can argue innocent competition which everyone has the right to do. There are laws to sanction what was done in this case. If he/they were smart, he/they would have set their Iowa Ride for a different time in the summer and in a totally different area of Iowa. In fact, riders might have welcomed two rides in case they have scheduling conflicts with one of the rides or want to see a different part of Iowa in a different way, i.e. from north to south. Who said Iowa Ride also needs to go from river to river? This ain’t over yet, and it is going to get ugly!

Jose Medina, Oct 27, 2019 at 8:01 pm

I have been on 30 Ragbrai’s. I have earned a voice in this. I also met my wife on Ragbrai. We have been together 20 years. Ragbrai will continue as before. The other ride is an unsafe ride. There are going to be a lot less riders on the road and a lot more autos and trucks. The public will not take this ride seriously. I predict a lot of accidents. The public is going to ignore the other ride and drive as usual. This will be TJs fault. I am looking forward to a lot more Ragbrai’s.

Dodie Davis, Nov 9, 2019 at 1:55 am

I am undecided on RAGBRAI or Iowa’s Ride, what I have not seen comments about is how quickly Iowa’s Ride was up and running. Please correct me, but it appears that the concept had been in the works for sometime. The RAGBRAI staff resign, and Iowa’s Ride registration is up and running in days. Had the Carson issue been the true reason for the resignations, I would have thought it would have taken longer to be up and running. We the riders, towns and so many lose. Both organizations need to work things out. This would be my 23rd year with RAGBRAI and the 50th anniversary will be coming up. Do I really want to start over? I just do not know, waiting on more information. The route, will the highway patrol be able to cover both rides? Will vendors be lost. A sad, sad day this is.

John Hare, Mar 25, 2020 at 8:16 pm

I grew up in Iowa and now live in Florida. I finally rode my first RAGBRAI in 2018 and hoped to do my second one this year. I won’t pretend to know what’s happened to cause the staff split but what’s a rider to do? I loved my first RAGBRAI and have always found the event and its history to be one of Iowa’s proudest possessions. I’m inclined to stick with the original but clearly this tradition is endangered at this point. Advice, anyone? Surely there are thousands like me who don’t see why this unique, Iowa tradition is threatened. Can’t we all rise above personal issues and conflicts and save this treasured event for the future?

JP Hare

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