RAGBRAI officials announced this morning that the Great Iowa Fall Ride that was scheduled to take place in Iowa Falls over three days in October has been canceled.
The ride, at which 2,500-3,000 people a day were expected to be in town from Oct. 2-4, was canceled due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s really unfortunate that we’re having to do this again but it’s just the right thing to do. 2020 is just not a great time for events,” ride Director Dieter Drake said in a statement. “We will shift our focus entirely to RAGBRAI forty-eight and remain steadfast in our dedication to make it even better in 2021.”
Iowa Falls was scheduled to host an overnight stay for the traditional RAGBRAI last week, but that event was postponed until next summer. Drake said he and other organizers have been working on the Fall Ride with Iowa Falls city officials such as City Manager Jody Anderson since March regarding traditional RAGBRAI and the Fall Ride. The three-day Fall Ride event would have based bikers in Iowa Falls and offered “cascading loops” of different length routes that would have left from and returned to Iowa Falls, giving bicyclists the option of 20-, 40-, or 70-mile rides. Sunday would have featured a gravel bicycle ride with stops for breakfast.
Drake said the ability and desire of Iowa Falls and its leaders to host the event were also a minor factor in canceling as well. Earlier this month some Iowa Falls City Council members and Police Chief Wade Harken raised concern about the safety of holding the ride.
"It was definitely a collective decision between the City, and the stakeholders there, and us," Dieter said. "We had so much incredible support from the City. It's just a bummer."
Local RAGBRAI volunteer Jeff Burchfield said he was hopeful the ride could take place if the event was held late enough in the fall. He said planning began immediately after traditional RAGBRAI was postponed in April.
“The idea even then was that we’re optimistic this thing (COVID-19) would clear up by October, but in reality that isn’t happening," Burchfield said.
Burchfield said the decision to cancel had to be made now because the registration and resource allocation needed to start now if the ride was moving forward. He said that while he and other volunteer organizers are disappointed, some positive things for Iowa Falls still resulted from the planning of the event.
"There are a couple of positives that came out of this," he said. "We have now an indication that RABGRAI is moving into a new generation, and not just because of the pandemic, but because we have new leadership and they’re willing and eager to try new ideas. At the very least, we’ve provided, at least in the cycling community and in the city of Iowa Falls and surrounding communities, we provided some hope that things would return to normal.”
Burchfield also said the mere fact that RAGBRAI put its faith in Iowa Falls and plans to continue to do so in the future is another plus for the community.
Drake confirmed that the planned route for RAGBRAI 2021 is scheduled to be almost identical to the 2020 route, including an overnight stop in Iowa Falls.
He said he was impressed with the enthusiasm of Iowa Falls and the surrounding communities.
"We owe a lot of thanks to the City of Iowa Falls for stepping up and supporting this ride," he said. "In another year we'll revisit it and maybe throughout the fall if things are trending in the right direction we'll continue."
Burchfield also confirmed that local organizers are interested in holding the event next fall if possible.