Several thousand bicycle riders, their families and support staff will start arriving in Sergeant Bluff later this week, the city that’s the starting point for this year’s RAGBRAI — the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

Sergeant Bluff City Councilwoman Andrea Johnson is on the city’s RAGBRAI committee. “We’re expecting a lot of the support vehicles to show up on Wednesday…so we only have a few days left to get everything put together,” she says. “…Sergeant Bluff is around 5000 people and we’re expecting around 28,000 to show up.”

This is the 49th annual RAGBRAI and the first time Sergeant Bluff has been chosen as the western Iowa starting spot.

“We’ve been working on roads and streets and signs and trying to get all those put together,” Johnson says. “The biggest thing we’re working on is housing people. Where are we going to put these 28,000 people and how are we going to keep them safe?”

Sergeant Bluff is planning to kick off a series of musical events on Saturday at noon to welcome RAGBRAI. Johnson says Sergeant Bluff residents are being invited to give the rider a memorable send off on Sunday morning.

“Some start trickling out at 5 a.m. to beat the heat,” The official start time is 6 a.m., so we are going to have as many people as we can on the sides of the streets, wishing leave our town.”

Ida Grove, Pocahontas, Emmetsburg, Mason City, Charles City and West Union are the overnight stops along this year’s RAGBRAI route. The cross-state ride ends in Lansing on July 30th.

(Reporting by Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City)