Oct 27, 2022 - Sports

Former RAGBRAI director claims ride is financially unstable

ragbrai bikers

Cyclists head down main street while riding RAGBRAI, July 26, 2011, in Lidderdale, Iowa. Photo by: Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

A former RAGBRAI director is questioning the long-term viability of the world's longest-running touring bike ride.

Yes, but: Current staff have shut down his claims, saying they're unfounded.

Details: RAGBRAI is a weeklong bike ride across Iowa that draws nearly 20,000 registered riders from around the world. It’s iconic in the cycling community and always happens the last week of July.

  • Registration for the 2023 ride opens next month. Last year it cost $175 to participate.

Driving the news: Dieter Drake oversaw RAGBRAI from 2019-2022. He recently made a public Facebook group called, "Save RAGBRAI."

  • Neither he nor the event publicly shared why he left the company.

Flashback: Drake was hired after longtime director TJ Juskiewicz quit and tried to create his own, now defunct, competing bike ride, "Iowa's Ride."

State of play: Gannett owns the Des Moines Register, the namesake and originator of the weeklong ride across Iowa.

  • In the Facebook group, Drake points to Gannett's recent financial difficulties, including the announcement that staff will have to take furloughs and the end of 401k matches.
  • While most companies have suffered this year, stocks plummeted for the country's largest newspaper corporation this year as printing costs increase and ad buyers get more conservative.

What they're saying: "The 50th edition of RAGBRAI is going to take a considerable amount of resources, experience and local goodwill," Drake told Axios.

  • "I hope I'm wrong, but it doesn't appear that Gannett is positioned well to move what could be more than 50,000 people on bicycles across the state next July."

The other side: While the news side is going through rough patches, RAGBRAI operates with a completely separate budget and financial team, said Anne Lawrie, cycling director of Ventures Endurance, a subsidiary of Gannett.

  • Lawrie said "there's no concern" about the longevity of the ride and pointed to new offices they moved into in the East Village and the increased financial contributions to towns. She said they have enough money to pay $30K to each overnight town now and $10K for each meeting town.
  • "It's not going anywhere. It's been around for 50 years. It will be around for much longer," Lawrie said.
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