DES MOINES — The man who’s managed the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa for the past 16 years resigned yesterday, along with the rest of the RAGBRAI staff, and announced plans for a competing “Iowa’s Ride” during the same week as RAGBRAI next July.
In a statement posted online, the RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz who resigned said the decision was based on how The Register and its owner handled its story about Carson King. King is the former ISU student who raised $3 million for the University of Iowa children’s hospital with a poster he held up during an ESPN broadcast. RAGBRAI’s now-former manager says the newspaper’s executives blocked him from responding the way he wished to RAGBRAI enthusiasts who had questions about the paper’s Carson King story.
A former Des Moines Register columnist who hosted many of the newspaper’s yearly bike rides across the state of Iowa is hoping for a reconciliation that keeps the event’s management team in place.. Chuck Offenburger was the “Iowa Boy” columnist for the Register for 21 years. “I was surprised and shocked when I heard this,” Offenburger told Radio Iowa . “I had no idea that this was in the works or that this might happen.”
Offenburger, who resigned from the Register in 1998 to protest treatment of other veteran reporters, says in his view the paper “handled the story appropriately,” but Offenburger is hoping the RAGBRAI staff who resigned and The Register’s management can meet and resolve the dispute. “Visit about this and see if they can put it back together and move forward,” Offenburger says.
Offenburger, the newspaper’s “co-host” of RAGBRAI for 16 years, says the annual, week-long ride is one the most important tourism events in the state. “In some ways, it’s more important than the State Fair from the standpoint that it brings people from all over the nation and all over the world into Iowa and shows them our towns, our small towns and cities all the way across the state,” Offenburger says, “so we take the crowd to these communities.”
The Iowa Bicycle Coalition issued a written statement expressing extreme concern about the future of RAGBRAI, which the coalition described as “iconic” and both culturally and economically important to the state of Iowa. The group expressed hope that a cross-state bike ride would continues — in whatever version that may be — in a way that elevates bicycling and promotes safety.