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RAGBRAI announces overnight stops

BY JOSH WHEELER - SPECIAL TO THE DAILY IOWAN | JANUARY 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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DES MOINES — The announcement of overnight towns for the 41st-annual RAGBRAI on Jan. 26 capped the daylong Iowa Bike Expo, an event featuring vendors from across the nation who exhibited everything from unicycles to bacon.

While the closest stop to Iowa City this year is in Oskaloosa, those involved say there are many reasons for local riders to start making plans to join the ride.

Jess Rundlett of the State Historical Museum in Des Moines attended the event, drumming up support for the launch of a 3,000-square-foot exhibit — scheduled to open this summer — that will showcase the best of Iowa cycling culture.

“RAGBRAI is only one of 52 weeks of great cycling in Iowa,” she said. “But it is definitely a great opportunity for Iowa City riders to be a part of history.”

More than 10,000 cyclists will pedal across the southern part of Iowa from July 21-27. They will travel from Council Bluffs to Fort Madison, including a stop in the capital city of Des Moines for the first time in 16 years.

At 406.6 miles, this year’s route is the second shortest in RAGBRAI history.

While Oskaloosa is the closest the cyclists will get to Iowa City this year, Coralville was an overnight town in 2011. Iowa City has not hosted riders overnight since 1975.

RAGBRAI also has locals discussing improvements to bicycle infrastructures and trails locally.
Mark Wyatt, the director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, said plans to build and improve bicycle trails in Iowa City may not materialize if citizen-led efforts — bolstered by the work of the coalition and high-profile rides such as RAGBRAI — can’t make up for government spending cuts.

“There’s been a 40 percent reduction of government funding for bicycle trails in Iowa,” Wyatt said. “What we need to continue in this state is more bicycle advocacy in order to make up for these cuts.”

The RAGBRAI Route Announcement Party acts as a fundraiser for the coalition, and last year’s event brought in nearly $80,000.

Wyatt said Iowa City cyclists can help further efforts to improve trails and pass safety legislation through participation in a ride such as RAGBRAI that raises awareness of cycling issues statewide.
This year, RAGBRAI joins the future by adding Google as a sponsor.  The Internet giant is working with RAGBRAI to début a mobile app that will assist cyclists through every stage of planning and riding.

Patrick and Gabrielle Coughlin were in attendance representing their cycling team known as Team Cow.

Covered head toe in cow apparel, sporting cow jewelry and even tattoos of cows on bicycles, the couple showed off pictures of their new team bus, “Sir Loin the Magnificent,” which was, predictably, painted like a cow.  Patrick Coughlin summed up the spirit of the night and the main reason to ride in RAGBRAI.

“It’s fun,” he said. “No matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re going to have fun.”


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