Despite a night punctuated by heavy rain and crashing thunder, thousands of bicycle riders on this year’s edition of RAGBRAI have packed up their nylon tents and are already on the road. Today’s leg is taking them about 70 miles from Waukee to Newton.
Eastern Iowa native Jen Rife is riding in her 6th RAGBRAI. Rife says she usually rides with her brother so it’s “brother-sister bonding time” for the week as she lives in Cedar Rapids and he lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This year’s seven-day trek across Iowa runs 444-miles from Sergeant Bluff to Muscatine. Rife says she likes to get an early start on the 70-to-80-mile daily segments to beat some of the heat. She says members of her team usually get up around 7 o’clock and get on the road around 8, while she likes to ride 90 minutes or so before even stopping for food or drink, and then it depends on the hills and the heat as far as when she takes a Gatorade break.
Rife says she’s working toward a big goal on this ride. She hasn’t stayed on the bike for a full week yet as she usually has to sit out a day and drive, but so far, “I’m going strong this year.” So-called sag wagons follow the intrepid bikers, picking up stragglers who are too pooped to pedal.
Adding to the inspiration, cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is expected to be joining the throng today for perhaps two days of biking, in addition to making appearances in Newton, Iowa City and Coralville.