Small Iowa towns wonder about sustainability of two statewide bike rides

By  | 

WASHINGTON, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa business owners and towns are trying to figure out how they would manage two cross-state rides in the same week after a long-running event got some new competition this week.

Bishop Tom Zinkula rode riding RAGBRAI 2018 week by day, and delivered Mass every evening each overnight stop. (KCRG File)

Four officials of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride across Iowa announced they would be leaving RAGBRAI and starting a new ride called Iowa’s Ride on Tuesday.

The split from RAGBRAI was over a Des Moines Register article about Carson King sending racially insensitive tweets as a teenager. The Register was widely criticized for its handling of that situation, and RAGBRAI officials said after getting criticism they wanted to show they were not connected to the decision to run the Register’s story but were not allowed to.

Business owners and others who plan local logistics around the week-long race said this leaves a lot of unknowns. In 2016, Richard Gilmore, President of Art Domestique in Washington, said thousands stopped in the small town. He said they changed their venue offering bicycle-themed art and pie.

“Joe Winters had two pieces,” Gilmore said.

Business wasn’t just good for him, according to the Washington Chamber of Commerce, the town made about $30,000 from a RAGBRAI overnight stop. That money was donated to organizations and non-profits. The thought of two races, however, has him nervous.

“If those two races ever met, it would be impossible,” Gilmore said.

“There are limited resources,” Shawn Ellingson, Chief Deputy of the Washington Sheriff’s Office, said.

Ellingson has not only policed the event for years but has helped plan his department's response as well.

“You have to rely on your neighbors,” Ellingson said. “If it doesn’t give people long enough to exhale, they’re going to have memories from the last event and I’m afraid it’s going to leave a sour taste in people’s mouths.”

While communities wait to see what’s in store for the state and having two different rides, Gilmore is optimistic it could work out.

“There are a lot of questions, but can it be done? Possibly,” Gilmore said.

Iowa’s Ride has already announced it will be going across the northern part of the state. RAGBRAI traditionally releases its route in January.