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Training for RAGBRAI: Short and Flat RAGBRAI Ahead!

  • 2 February, 2010

The overnight towns for the 2010 RAGBRAI were announced on January 30.   As you probably have heard by now, it’s being touted as one of the shortest and flattest RAGBRAI’s in history.   After last year’s hilly version, this may come as a relief to you.   So this means you don’t have to train, or at least train as much as last year, right?  Think again. (you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you!)  

This year’s ride is 442 which means it averages 63 miles per day.  442 miles is still a long way to ride and proper preparation is needed.  This year’s ride still has a total vertical climb of 14,527 feet.  While this is not quite the Ride the Rockies, it still means some hills.  Keep in mind, 14,527 feet is almost three miles straight up!  Yes, it’s spread over 7 days, but not equally!  Some days will have more than their share, especially on the last day when you are most fatigued. 

Just to sober you up a little from your ‘flat ride euphoria’, here is the profile of the last day of 1993 when RAGBRAI also ended in Dubuque:

As you can see, there will be some ups and downs. 

While this year’s route may be less challenging than past rides, you will still want the endurance and ability to ride at a comfortable pace each day for seven days in a row.  Remember, it’s often your body part that sits on the saddle all day that gets the most sore and that still needs to be trained even when it’s flat!  Plus it will still be hot.  Last year you got a break on the really hot temperatures but my prediction is this year’s ride will be more like a typical RAGBRAI in the third week of July in Iowa: hot and humid. 

So my message to you is to celebrate briefly (unless you enjoy hills) that this year’s route is flatter and shorter than normal, but then get back to training.  You will be well served if you put aside the notion that this ride will be short and flat.  Everything is relative.  442 miles is shorter than 480 miles, but it is still a long way.  There will still be the Karras Loop option and some days will be longer than others, so don’t skimp on the mileage you train this year.  And while the hills will be less frequent than last year, they will still be there.  So don’t skip hills during your preparation.  The good news is you have 6 months yet to train for it.  

Keep an eye out for my future blogs as I give you ideas on how to prepare for this year’s ride.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and owner of Cyclesport Coaching (www.CyclesportCoaching.com) . 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 .


  1. Harry Moore

    The 1993 route into DBQ had that monster of a hill at Twin Springs. Maybe an alternative would be to take the Heritage trail into DBQ instead.

  2. Biker from MN

    One must remember that one whopping big steep shear cliff side hill does not define a route. Its only 450 in less than a mile!

  3. Carolyn Straub

    I’m 66 and have started riding my bike. I’ve ridden hills,
    but no high ones. Can I become qualified for something
    like this ride 2010?

  4. Jack

    Carolyn; The key to riding Ragbrai hills is to have a gear low enough so you can pedal to the top, and the stamina to just keep spinning. Start training now; you should find an indoor spinning class or buy a stationary bicycle. Work your way up to where you can pedal steadily for an hour. When the weather gets better, try to get out for an hour each day. If you can find a nice route with a couple of hills, even better. Last year the southern Iowa hills were not that high, but very steep near the tops. Everyone–young,old,thin,fat,etc–geared down and ground their way to the top. AND if you have to stop for a drink half-way up, then stop for a few minutes. Lots of people do their hills in stages. Best of luck

  5. MIke

    I rode III, IV, and V. Somehow I think the few years between then and now will require some training. The last time I went we averaged 21 mph. It’ll be interesting to see how my freshman in college boy handles the “old-man” passing him. HA!

  6. Kate

    Carolyn, you will not be the oldest person there. I have talked to folks as old as 78, and there are many riders in their 60’s & 70’s.Assuming you are in good health – never bad to check w/ your doctor – the key things are probably equipment, training & attitude. Get a bike with a good granny gear; you will use it! Make sure your bike fits you and you’ll be comfortable on it for several hours a day. Train! I am in my 50’s, exercise throughout the winter, and will try to ride at least 600 miles ahead of time, hopefully more, and will include a couple of 60 – 80 mile days. Have fun with this! Think of ragbrai as an adventure & a challenge, and something to tell your friends & family. I love RAGBRAI; it is like Brigadoon, a special place that only exists for a limited time each year. See you on the road!

  7. MAC

    I am 66 and rode my first RABGRAI last year. I had 2400 miles in before the ride. The hills were tough, the experience was one of the most memorable of my life. I live in northern IL and have 370 miles in between the snow falls.
    I have a medical condition, colostomey, that worried me a bit last year, but everything worked out OK. I enjoyed the mild temps last year, but the heat is OK, because it is summer. Looking forward to a FUN week.

  8. Clayton Knepp

    If a person can ride 10 miles then they can do RAGBRAI. You eat an elephant one bite at a time! Enjoy the scenery and tour; not race the route.

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  10. Morrish Marlow

    Wasn’t precisely what I was in search of but started reading the first few lines and it was useful so ended up reading the whole post, thanks.

  11. Fred Thoben

    This made me smile and hopefully after your last post it will do the same for you:
    Some drink at the fountain of knowledge. Others just gargle. :)

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