OTTUMWA — Iowa cyclists may have to make a choice between two separate rides across the state this summer.
All four full-time organizers of RAGBRAI resigned on Tuesday, citing problems with how the ride’s main sponsor, the Des Moines Register, handled its coverage of Carson King. The newspaper found and published a number of insensitive tweets King had posted as a teenager, which drew ire from people all across the state. King, an Altoona man, raised $3 million for the Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
After cutting their ties with the Register, RAGBRAI’s former organizers announced a new cross-state ride, called “Iowa’s Ride,” which will take place the same week as RAGBRAI in July 2020.
This has put many longtime RAGBRAI riders in a difficult position. Ottumwa firefighter Derek Fye, head of the firefighter cycling team “Bros Before Hose,” is one such rider.
“Originally, it was kind of a shock for all of us,” he said. “It’s crazy that this is happening; it’s such a historic ride. You wish it could be settled, but things happen for a reason.”
Fye said his team will follow RAGBRAI’s former organizers and do Iowa’s Ride next summer. He said much of this is out of loyalty for the ride’s long-running director, TJ Juskiewicz.
“I personally know TJ and feel like it’s probably not gonna be the same without him,” Fye said. “It seems like the cycling community knows what he’s about, and he’s just about what makes the ride so great, and what’s great for the people, and what’s great for the ride.”
While the ride is still a long time off, Fye personally fears the departure RAGBRAI’s top organizers will bring it to an end. He explained that these events take months of coordination, and he’s afraid a replacement team won’t have the know-how to get it up and running in time.
Fye has experience organizing rides himself. He was the lead organizer of Tour de Fire ride, during which cyclists rode between different fire stations around the region. It gave him a sense of how difficult organizing an event the size of RAGBRAI could be.
“It’s hard enough for hundreds of people to figure out housing and logistics, and for that many people I honestly couldn’t even imagine,” Fye said.
While the precise route for Iowa’s Ride won’t be announced until sometime next month, its organizers have said it will be in northern Iowa. Currently, the event resembles RAGBRAI in every way except for name. It’s a weeklong Missouri River to Mississippi River ride which will travel through small rural communities and feature overnight stays and live entertainment.
Although he said it was a hard decision, Fye said he and the team are looking forward to what opportunities Iowa’s Ride has in store.
“For all of us, because of the tradition, it’s going to be hard, but we’re excited for it,” Fye said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.