Foreshadowing a moment anticipated for nearly two years, about 30 riders in pedaled toward the morning sun, departing Le Mars in far northwest Iowa on Sunday for the first leg in a weeklong ride.
Twenty-three months after the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa last set off on its cross-state trek, it was the start of the annual RAGBRAI pre-ride, a journey that gives the organizers the chance to inspect the route up-close and meet with representatives of the towns through which it will pass.
Just seven weeks from now, 12,000 riders are expected to follow in their tire tracks, marking the return of RAGBRAI after a pandemic-induced cancellation in 2020 — the first time the ride had been called off since its beginning in 1973.
A core group of organizers, accompanied on legs of the journey by groups from the towns along the way,will continue along the454-mile route throughout this week, reaching Clinton on the Mississippi River on Saturday.The route is the same one planned for RAGBRAI in 2020, except that Sac City and DeWitt have replaced Storm Lake and Maquoketa as overnight towns.
Sunday's ride took riders 84 miles to Sac City. Though they battled strong winds out of the southwest and temperatures near 90 degrees,the excitement and anticipation around the return of one of Iowa's most-cherished annual events was the focus of the day.