The last time RAGBRAI ended in Davenport — July 25, 2015 — bicyclists dipped their tires in the Mississippi River on the shore of Credit Island to mark the end of their weeklong journey.
After traveling 65 miles that Saturday from Coralville to Davenport on the final leg of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, participants pedaled an additional 3 miles around the park. Many people deemed the required loop at the end of the 462-mile ride an unnecessary detour.
“We heard a lot of negativity last time about ending at Credit Island,” said Dixon Novy, RAGBRAI charter service director for the Quad-Cities Bicycle Club. “The riders want that reward at the end; that’s what they look forward to in every town.”
At RAGBRAI 46, organizers hope to see cyclists roll into downtown Davenport at the culmination of the event, which coincides with the Quad-City Times Bix 7 road race on Saturday, July 28.
The departure of the Rhythm City Casino boat has opened up the city’s riverfront property, making the downtown an ideal and “celebratory” endpoint for this year’s trek, said RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz.
He said LeClaire Park, positioned next to Modern Woodmen Park and the Freight House Farmers Market, could serve as a potential site to host the festivities. A committee of city officials, cyclists and business owners in the Quad-Cities is responsible for mapping out the specific route and logistics within the community, which should be finalized by mid-March.
“I’m sure they’ll take a lot of opinions,” said Juskiewicz, who plans to meet with the team of representatives for the first time next Friday. “As long as it’s a safe and enjoyable route, they’ll pick one that will showcase the town.”
The ride begins July 22 at the Missouri River in Onawa and stops overnight in Dennison, Jefferson, Ames, Newton, Sigourney and Iowa City. At 428 miles, it has been labeled the seventh shortest RAGBRAI in history. Cyclists this year also face 12,576 feet of climb, making this the fourth flattest route on record.
Prior to 2015, Davenport marked the end of the ride in 2011, 1982 and 1973, the inaugural tour. In 2011, RAGBRAI ended at the Marquette Street boat landing. Clinton and Muscatine have hosted five and six times, respectively.
In previous years, RAGBRAI has not interfered with the running of the Bix 7, race director Ed Froehlich said.
“It depends on where they (bicyclists) finish, but the Bix race will be pretty much over when they come into town,” he said. “It adds to the weekend.”
Prepping for her ninth consecutive RAGBRAI, Tina Anderson of Bettendorf wants the Quad-Cities to capitalize on this opportunity “like the small towns do.” The founder of Tour de Brew Q-C, an annual charity ride in the spring, will contribute to the planning this year.
Anderson envisions cyclists descending on downtown Davenport via Harrison or Main streets, which she thinks would make a statement. While many riders may just want to head home when they reach the finish line, she said the Bix Street Fest as well as additional vendors and entertainment on the riverfront may encourage them to stay.
“I think Dubuque’s tagline is, ‘Masterpiece on the Mississippi,’ but we’ve got a lot going on here, too,” she said. “This is a really big win for the community.”
Anderson, a member of Team LIVESTRONG, completed last year's 411-mile ride on a heavy fat-tire bike. This year, she will revert to her road bike.
Novy, the charter service director for the Quad-Cities Bicycle Club, will embark on his 11th consecutive RAGBRAI in July. He encourages interested newbies to test out one leg of the ride.
"There's not a better way to get a taste of RAGBRAI," he said. "You do one day and then you're back next year doing the whole week."
The entry deadline for weeklong riders is April 1, while day-pass registrations are due online June 1. Go to ragbrai.com for more information.