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RAGBRAI riders roll in early on route inspection

RAGBRAI state organizers and volunteers catch a break at Riverfront Park after arriving in Charles City on Wednesday. Organizers ride the entire RAGBRAI route seven weeks in advance each year. Press photo by Kate Hayden
RAGBRAI state organizers and volunteers catch a break at Riverfront Park after arriving in Charles City on Wednesday. Organizers ride the entire RAGBRAI route seven weeks in advance each year. Press photo by Kate Hayden
By Kate Hayden, khayden@charlescitypress.com

RAGBRAI isn’t for another month, but Charles City residents may have noticed plenty of bikes in town on Wednesday anyway.

State organizers and volunteers rolled into town around 4 p.m. as they trace every road RAGBRAI participants will descend upon in July, inspecting conditions and meeting with town committees along the way.

“It’s spending a week on the road, riding the route on the actual day that RAGBRAI will take place, but about seven weeks beforehand,” RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz said. “Along the way we’re looking at road conditions, we’re looking at traffic patterns. Meeting with the different towns along the way and making sure they’re prepared.”

“The [towns] that are brand-new to it, we’ve really got to give them a lot of good information,” Juskiewicz said.

Juskiewicz had around 40 riders arrive with him at the Riverfront Park, where they stretched out for a break among whitewater kayaks and residents in the park. Three of this week’s riders are full-time RAGBRAI staff members who aren’t able to ride the route during the event.

Other riders include bike shop owners, the medical committee chair, or other organization representatives assisting with event planning.

“A lot of these people work on RAGBRAI so they don’t get to ride the real RAGBRAI. This is kind of their RAGBRAI,” Juskiewicz said. “It’s a good group of people from all over the world that have come together for a 411 mile ride across the state.”

Charles City will be the overnight location during the middle of the week — and so far the road conditions along the route have been pretty good, he added.

“County engineers and the [Department of Transportation] do a great job of keeping our roads in good shape. We benefit big-time by that, having pretty good roads for RAGBRAI,” he said.

RAGBRAI staff members planned to meet with Charles City committee volunteers on Wednesday evening and stay overnight.

“It’s a little bit more fun than a serious business meeting,” Juskiewicz said.

On Thursday, the route inspection takes off for Cresco, passing through Ionia, New Hampton, Lawler and Protivin, as riders will next month.

“The local committee is fantastic. We’ve worked with them since January,” he added. “They need volunteers and they need housing, so when they ask for your help, hopefully people will step up in town. It’s a lot of fun getting involved, and we have people from all over the world come on RAGBRAI. Sitting on the sidelines is not as fun as getting involved.”

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