The RAGBRAI Inspection Tour begins at Sergeant Bluff

Sergeant Bluff — Around 7 a.m. Sunday, Matt Phippen found himself in an unusual position.

A long-time volunteer for the Registry’s annual Big Bike Ride in Iowa, he began participating in the annual roadside inspection tour 10 years ago when he worked as a manager of the article chain of Scheels sports. But on Sunday morning, he stood in the center of a circle at Sergeant Bluff, directing runners on his first pre-race as leader of RAGBRAI, directing them to a route designed under his direction.

Crossing the state July 24-30 from the Missouri River City to Lansing on the Mississippi River, the ride is back for its second year after a pandemic cancellation in 2020 and a change in direction the year before. Phippen replaced Dieter Drake in January.

RAGBRAI Route Inspection Team members (left to right) Andrea Parrott, Kathy Murphy, ride director Matt Phippen and Scott Olson make their way along the route June 5.

While registrations for the 2021 ride are down about 5%, Phippen said he’s ready for a return to pre-pandemic attendance levels — or beyond. More than 17,000 weekly and one-day cyclists have already signed up for the country’s biggest annual cycling tour.

“It’s record high right now,” Phippen said. “People are happy with the ride. The cities have done a good job of promoting what’s going on, so it’s creating buzz.

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