DES MOINES - What had been speculated for months became official Saturday night - RAGBRAI XXXIX will begin in Glenwood on Sunday morning, July 24.
RAGBRAI, the nation’s largest cross-state bicycle ride, will be starting in Glenwood for a record-tying sixth time.
Glenwood was the first overnight town announced during a RAGBRAI Route announcement party Saturday night in Des Moines. Other overnight stops on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa will include Atlantic, Carroll, Boone, Altoona, Grinnell, Coralville and Davenport.
Glenwood, which last hosted RAGBRAI in 2003, now joins Sioux City as the only two towns in the history of the 39-year ride to serve as the starting point six times. Along with 2003, RAGBRAI previously started in Glenwood in 1980, 1984, 1989 and 1992.
Mary Gunderson, a member of the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, was among a Glenwood contingency in attendance at Saturday night’s announcement party.
“We were pretty confident about Glenwood being selected. We were checking the (RAGBRAI) website and there was a lot of speculation,” Gunderson said. “After we were announced, we had a lot of well-wishers come up to our table and tell us they were happy about Glenwood being selected.”
Gunderson said hosting the event will be a major undertaking, but also a golden opportunity to showcase the community.
“We’ve got 25 weeks. We’ve got to hit the ground running. This community will really have to step up and get behind the event,” she said.
Linda Washburn, the chamber’s executive director, said she and the chamber board felt it was important for the new high school project to be completed before bringing the ride back to Glenwood.
“Last year, we thought about sending a letter of intent, but we knew the ride was probably going to go north,” Washburn said. “This year, we got letters of support from the school district, the city and the county and submitted a full packet in August.”
During the fall, the chamber spearheaded two informal town hall meetings to gauge community interest in the event and to start compiling a list of potential volunteers should the city be selected.
“They told us we wouldn’t find out until the end of January if we had been selected, but we wanted to start the process,” Washburn said. “We’re very excited to have RAGBRAI coming back. When we reflect back to 2003, one of the neatest things that came about was people in our community got to know and work with other people in the community that they would have never gotten to know otherwise.”
Glenwood Mayor Kim Clark said the chamber of commerce and other supporters behind the city’s bid to host the event deserve credit for their efforts.
“I think the (Glenwood) committee must have done a good job,” Clark said. “When you look at the map, most of the route is in the central part of the state once they leave Glenwood and go through Atlantic.”
Clark, who also happens to be a deputy for the Mills County Sheriff’s Office, conceded that having the event come to Mills County creates some public safety and law enforcement challenges.
“It’s a good event for the community and there’s a lot of good people that come with it, but in law enforcement we always have to deal with the bad ones,” she said.
The complete RAGBRAI XXXIX route, including pass-through towns, is expected to be released in mid-March after ride officials have received input from county sheriffs and county engineers.
The first day of the ride between Glenwood and Atlantic will be a 64-mile trek With 4,946 feet of climbing between the two southwest Iowa communities, Glenwood resident and veteran RAGBRAI rider Jeff Mitts said Day 1 will likely be the most grueling day of the ride for bicyclists.
“Tom Sperling and I were talking Sunday and he said, ‘I don’t think there’s a way to get from Glenwood to Atlantic without it being hilly,’” Mitts said.
Mitts said he’s happy to see the ride return to Glenwood.
“I think it’s always exciting when it comes to your town,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity. It’s a chance to show off what’s in your community, like the new high school and amphitheater.”
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RAGBRAI Meeting Feb. 3
Glenwood-area residents interested in volunteering in some capacity or learning more about RAGBRAI are encouraged to attend a public meeting Thursday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m., in the Mills County YMCA community room.
Persons interested in being a RAGBRAI volunteer but unable to attend the meeting should contact the Glenwood Area Chamber of Commerce office at 527-3298.