The Quad Cities will go for the gold on July 29, 2023, as that summer Saturday Davenport will host both the Bix 7 road race and the 50th anniversary of RAGBRAI.
As it did the first year of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, Davenport will be the final stop in the statewide event, the world’s largest bicycle ride. At a press conference Thursday at the Visit Quad Cities destination center at Union Station, Davenport, officials unveiled the logo and theme for Davenport RAGBRAI: “Be Bold. Ride Gold.”
“I am incredibly honored and proud that Davenport was chosen to be the end town for the 50th-anniversary RAGBRAI event,” Davenport Mayor Mike Matson said. “We look forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to our community, just as we did 50 years ago as the dip site during the inaugural event.”
There will be over 7,000 runners downtown July 29 in the Bix 7, and about 8,000 week-long riders from RAGBRAI. The dip site (where bicyclists touch their tires in the Mississippi River) will be at Veterans Memorial Park at the foot of Marquette Street.
Recent renovations to the park include a river overlook with benches and sunshades near the bike path as well as a new mural honoring veterans. In addition to the route announcement, other details – including the host committee, housing, transportation, parking, campgrounds, corporate sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, vendor program, and entertainment – will be announced in the coming months.
The QC event website is DavenportRAGBRAI.com, and participants (including family and friends of riders) are expected to set up in the QC region on July 21 before they head to Sioux City to start the ride, Visit Quad Cities president/CEO Dave Herrell said Thursday.
“RAGBRAI is a cultural phenomenon and we are humbled to be part of the largest touring bike ride in the world,” he said. “We are a bold destination that has a tremendous amount of momentum that we need to leverage for future success.
“The privilege of hosting the 50th anniversary of RAGBRAI is an opportunity to turn the QC gold as we welcome thousands of guests from all over the globe,” Herrell said, joking that he’d love to turn the river here gold that day, or create gold bike paths.
“We strongly encourage all Quad Citizens to get involved as we can use this event to further the positive story of downtown Davenport, the world-renowned Mississippi River and our cycling community.”
Riding 500 miles across Iowa is “a pretty bold thing to do,” Herrell said of the “Be Bold” theme. “There’s power in that statement.” And gold honors the RAGBRAI golden anniversary.
Value of teamwork
It takes a village to produce such a massive statewide event every year, Herrell noted, praising the four full-time RAGBRAI staff.
“I think what’s most special for communities that get to host, they understand the value of relationships and teamwork and communication,” he said. Herrell said he’s incredibly impressed by race director Matt Phippen’s leadership and stewardship of this event.
“Everybody across the state in our space is so excited by the future of RAGBRAI,” Herrell said.
“The excitement for the 50th has been building since we dipped tires in Lansing last year,” said Phippen. “We can’t wait to welcome record crowds this year from all fifty states and seventeen countries. This year’s route will definitely highlight Iowa communities for the whole world to see.”
“This ride is pretty special; it means so much to so many people and there’s so much history around RAGBRAI,” he said. “There were towns along the way that were fighting for your spot, but we were committed to Davenport. The thing I’m most proud of, RAGBRAI is bigger than just our team.”
“We can’t do that alone. We create partnerships and turn friendships, and then one day, those friendships turn into family,” Phippen said. “We’re very excited. Our plan is to pull off the world’s largest event for small-town Iowa and dip our tires in this beautiful community.”
Downtown Davenport will be the coolest and hottest spot that Saturday.
“I don’t know how to describe my happiness, excitement, pride,” Mayor Matson said, crediting the staff of RAGBRAI and Visit QC for making this happen.
This location, in the center of our nation, for that Saturday in late July, will be the center of everything going on,” he said.
In addition to the first RAGBRAI in 1973, Davenport has been the ride’s end point in recent years in 2011, 2015, and 2018.
Herrell also praised the city for the investment they have and are putting in to improve its Mississippi riverfront, including Veterans Memorial Park and the planned Main Street Landing.
“During the next couple years, you’re gonna see this place come alive,” he said. “There’s a lot of positive momentum. There’s a lot of energy.”
Positive economic impact
One of the largest tourism events in the country, a 2008 study by the University of Northern Iowa estimated RAGBRAI’s economic impact between $24 million to $25 million for the weeklong ride. QC leaders look forward to the perfect storm of the Bix 7 and RAGBRAI pouring visitor spending into local businesses.
“Those folks will not only be on the path, but in the pubs, in the breweries, in the restaurants and they’re gonna be in the hotels,” Quad Cities Chamber CEO LaDrina Wilson said Thursday. “It’s the riders and their guests.”
“You see a lot of communities that benefit from people deciding to hang back and have a good time,” she said. Having the Bix 7 and RAGBRAI here the same day, Wilson joked: “Why don’t we just throw ’em in the river and have an Ironman Triathlon?”
“It will create a lot of momentum going into the 50th for the Bix next year,” she said of the 7-mile road race. RAGBRAI is not technically a race. “I hope this puts to bed once and for all, there’s nothing to do in the Quad Cities. We want people to come out — whether you’re a visitor or a local who wants to participate. Get involved, be a cheerleader, be involved in that energy. That’s what I think it’s really about, that momentum.”
“The Bix 7 is historically a great event for overnight demand, hotel stays,” Herrell said. “What’s unique about RAGBRAI for us, not only is it about July 29th, but we have the benefit of people are going to descend in the Quad Cities July 21st — they’re bringing vehicles, they’re parking, getting settled. There’s gonna be a campground site. They’ll hit up downtown businesses and do stuff that week before.
“All the charters come and take them over to Sioux City,” he said of buses. “It’s different than an overnight town, like Iowa City/Coralville. It’s a totally different deal — we’re getting two hits with it.”
Veteran bicyclist excited
Milan bicyclist Dean Mathias, 71, did his first RAGBRAI in 1988 and has ridden in over 20 times, the last one being 2021, when it ended in Clinton. He attended Thursday’s announcement wearing a past RAGBRAI outfit and looks forward to taking part again this year. Many bicyclists ride just in a one-day pass.
“I enjoy the people,” Mathias said, noting he’s helped an Air Force team. “You get a chance to meet people, helping fix tires. You end up getting more back than you put in.”
He’s done all past RAGBRAIs on a seat-less bike, but may do the 50th with a seat.
“I just like to have nothing but air,” Mathias said. “I can’t go quite as fast as I did before. I’ve got bikes with a seat and bikes with no seat.”
For the 50th, he appreciates having it literally come back full circle. “It’s a beautiful thing, to be going this long.”
The Davenport RAGBRAI Committee is looking for volunteers to assist with many aspects of the event. Those interested can sign up at the RAGBRAI site HERE.