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As Team Spare Tirepedaled through a hazy drizzle, carving a path from Coralville to Solon, RAGBRAI Director Dieter Drake was about 200 miles east of where he had hoped to be this humid Iowa morning.

Tuesday should have been Day 3 ofRAGBRAI XLVIII, and Drake should have been among10,000 beaming bicyclists caravanningfrom Fort Dodge to Iowa Falls, stopping along the way to enjoy small-town Main Streets, roadside pork chops and church-ladypie.

“We would be in Fort Dodge, be in this car, probably, driving around,” Drake said around 7 a.m. as he drove a RAGBRAI-emblazoned car to meet the Spare Tire crew in eastern Iowa.

But, like so many beloved events, the coronavirus pandemic knocked RAGBRAI’s bike chains from its wheels. Organizers postponed the 48th edition of the annual ride in April, making 2020 the first time since 1973 that riders are not pedaling river-to-river during the last full week of July.

Instead, organizers are offering cyclists a “virtual ride,” which they hope will harness the carefree spirit of the world’s oldest, largest and longest recreational bike ridethrough online events and daily challenges that push bikers to recreate RAGBRAI’s planned mileagein their own backyards.

To mark his first RAGBRAI — which he knows isn’treallya RAGBRAI — Drake is spending the week riding with bike groups across Iowa and keeping excitement up for the ride’s scheduled return next year.

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Drake’s background in competitive cycling and his passion for the industry was immediately impressive, said Joshua Schamberger,president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"He's not from Iowa and he's not an Iowan, but he's certainly worked hard to understand the importance of this ride,"Schamberger said. "He'll be the next caretaker."

Currently living in Colorado, Drake has been commuting to Iowa since starting in December. He, his wife and his seven children —ranging in age from 4 to 23 years old —plan to move east as soon as the pandemic slows.

Over 16 years in the industry, cycling has taken Drake all over the world and he's always heard stories about the famous Iowa ride. Last year, well before he was hired, a friend from Iceland even mentioned RAGBRAI on a bike tour through the Canary Islands.

"It's way beyond what I think folks in Iowa know," Drake said. "In the bicycling industry RAGBRAI is the standard for multi-day bike rides across the planet."


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