Coralville preps for cyclists


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RAGBRAI officials have announced Coralville as an overnight town for the bicycle deluge in July, and local businesses and officials are preparing for the challenge.

“It’s a great opportunity to showcase our city to people from around the world,” Coralville Mayor John Lundell said.

RAGBRAI is an annual bike ride across Iowa with approximately 10,000 participants, and this year will mark the fifth time Coralville has hosted riders overnight, but just the first time for the Iowa River.

Backpocket Brewing, 903 Quarry Road, Coralville, is anticipating a positive effect on its business.
“RAGBRAI helps every town it touches,” said Bob Wagner, the Backpocket operations manager.

Jenny Henningsen, the owner of Waterstreet Coffee Bar, 925 E. Second Ave., said she feels RAGBRAI offers a tremendous opportunity for showcasing local businesses.

“Iowa River Landing is a new development, and I feel people don’t know about it yet,” she said.

Henningsen has ridden RAGBRAI in the past and witnessed the way restaurants often run out of supplies or are understaffed for the event.

“It’s going to take a lot of preparation,” she said.

In the past, Backpocket has set up mobile beer gardens on the RAGBRAI route that has accustomed the staff to the event and the large number of people it attracts.

This year, however, Wagner hopes the ride’s visit to the Iowa River Landing will familiarize riders with the actual location of the brewery and taproom.

“A majority of riders are from Iowa, but we’ve been able to develop a regional following in such states as Missouri and Wisconsin,” he said.

Other overnight towns will include Sioux City, Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Eldora, Cedar Falls, and Hiawatha. The ride will end in Davenport.

The route will be approximately 462 miles. After pedaling around 60 miles from Hiawatha, participants will reach Coralville on July 24 during a relatively low-mileage day, meaning riders will be able to spend some extra time exploring the area.

The Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau, along with the city of Coralville, bid for Coralville’s spot as a host community together.

Although Iowa City and North Liberty were already tied up with various summer projects of their own and did not put in bids, the cities worked to promote Coralville’s bid.

Josh Schamberger, the Iowa City/Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau president, said the organizations were not 100 percent sure Coralville would become a host community until the announcement party.

Though RAGBRAI activities will be centralized in a new area, Lundell said the city will be prepared by the day of the event.

“We’ve hosted it so many times, and we have a great appreciation of the ways it affects our community,” he said.

His confidence comes partly from the success of such events as Fry Fest taking place at the Iowa River Landing with excellent results.

“We never have a problem finding volunteers in Coralville,” Lundell said. “And the local business community will step up to the plate.”

Since the confirmation of the overnight stop, the bureau and the city have a limited amount of time to coordinate the overnight stay.

“We have six months to get a plan in place,” Schamberger said. “It should be a lot of fun.”

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