Here it is 2016 and the RAGBRAI XLIV route has been announced.  Once again, I’ll be back as your RAGBRAI online coach to help answer your questions and help you prepare to tackle this ride.

This year RAGBRAI makes its way back to the southern part of the state.  Those of you familiar with the geography will immediately associate this with hills.  You see, the last time the glaciers came our way, they stopped around I-80 (which wasn’t there at the time by the way). So the landscape in the southern third of our state didn’t get flattened out like it did to the north.  But take heart, this year the organizers managed to find a route through southern Iowa which isn’t as hilly as previous treks through this part of the state.  According to the route announcement, this year’s course cover 419.9 miles which is the third shortest in RAGBRAI’s 44 year history.  “Short” is relative of course. It’s still 419 miles. This year’s course climbs a total of 18,488 feet, putting it at 24th hilliest, right about in the middle of all previous RAGBRAIs.  So it is far from flat and enough hills that you will notice them and want to be prepared to ride up.  The first day has the most climbing, with about 4000 feet of climbing. Overall these statistics give this year’s ride the ranking of 15th ‘easiest’ course.

So what does this mean for your training?  As I say every year, no matter how hard or easy the course is, it will pay to prepare for it.  419 miles is a long way to ride for anyone. Add in the heat, humidity, wind and fatigue and it can be a challenge.  If you are relatively new to cycling, or don’t typically ride a lot or for long distances, you can’t just hope to hop on your bike and do the ride without consequences. Yes, you can treat it like an extreme challenge and you may finish but I can guarantee you will have a better time if your body is ready for the challenge. This mostly means riding your bike a lot prior to RAGBRAI. I use a rule of thumb of getting 1000 miles under your derriere before you leave for RAGBRAI. Once again, I will be coming out with my 15 week training plan to help you get in the appropriate amount of riding this spring leading up to the ride.  I will also be blogging about how to train for hills (even you don’t have any hills where you live), how to deal with heat, hydration, fueling and endurance, among other things.

A word about ‘training’.  When I mention ‘training’ and ‘RAGBRAI’ in the same sentence it often elicits laughs or comments about adult beverages.  But I will continue to talk about ‘training for RAGBRAI’ because 1) I am a coach and that’s what I do, and 2) if you train, you will have a better ride and a more enjoyable time. Really.  If you are fortunate and are able to knock off RAGBRAI without training, more power to you.  But if you aren’t an elite cyclist and struggle with long rides, hills, heat, wind and riding with thousands of your closest cycling friends, stayed tuned and keep watching this blog for tips on how to prepare for your upcoming ride.

Coach David Ertl

David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and individual cyclists through the Peaks Coaching Group. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://ift.tt/KCPCu1 . He can be contacted at coach@cyclesportcoaching.com


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