It’s that special time of year again in Iowa – RAGBRAI time.
The 49th annual Register Great Bike Ride through Iowa begins July 24 at Sergeant Bluff on the Missouri River and reaches Lansing on the Mississippi River seven days later.
With over 17,000 participants expected for the world’s largest annual bike tour, here’s what you need to know about the weather along the route before you ride – or watch – RAGBRAI.
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Day 0, July 23: Sergeant Bluff
As riders gather Saturday in preparation for the Sunday morning start, more than 80 exhibitors will be offering bike-related merchandise from noon to 9 p.m. at the RAGBRAI XLIX Bike Expo in downtown Sergeant Bluff.
The National Weather Service predicts a mostly sunny morning Saturday, with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1 p.m.
With temperatures reaching the 90s, RAGBRAI spokeswoman Anne Lawrie stressed the importance of staying hydrated and watching for signs of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
“We just want to make sure they fill their water bottles, make sure they eat throughout the day, find shade when they can find shade and that they’re really checking in with themselves and their bodies to see where they’re at,” Lawrie said. “And if they need help, obviously we have assistance down the road to help them.”
Saturday night will reach a low temperature of around 65 degrees, with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms before 1am.
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Day 1, July 24: Sergeant Bluff at Ida Grove
Riders will cycle 53.2 miles from Sergeant Bluff to Ida Grove on the first day of RAGBRAI, with a stop in the meeting town of Anthon about halfway through.
Sunday along the road will be mostly sunny, with high temperatures nearing 84 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Winds are expected to be east/northeast at 9 mph with some gusts up to 17 mph.
Sunday night will be partly cloudy, with low temperature around 63 degrees.
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Day 2, July 25: Ida Grove to Pocahontas
RAGBRAI participants will cycle 71.2 miles on day two leaving Ida Grove, stopping in the meeting town of Newell, and ending the day in the first night town of Pocahontas.
Monday brings a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms to northwest Iowa, with high temperatures nearing 85 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Winds will blow from the east/southeast at 8 mph, with some wind gusts up to 14 mph.
Cities and counties along the RAGBRAI Highway have worked with the National Weather Service on weather contingency plans for storms, according to Lawrie.
“We’ve identified shelter locations throughout the route. We’ve also identified ways to get passengers off the route if needed,” Lawrie said. “And then we worked with the National Weather Service to figure out what conditions need to be for them to sound alarms and start warning runners.”
The National Weather Service only predicts the weather seven days in advance. However, AccuWeather’s long-term forecast calls for a 25% chance of showers and thunderstorms overnight Monday, with low temperatures around 65 degrees.
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Day 3, July 26: Pocahontas in Emmetsburg
On day three, riders will travel 56.4 miles from Pocahontas to the meeting town of West Bend, and finally to the overnight destination of Emmetsburg.
Tuesday will bring a 60% chance of showers and thunderstorms along the route, according to AccuWeather, with high temperatures around 86 degrees. Winds will blow from the south/southwest at 7 mph, gusting up to 15 mph.
A low temperature of 66 degrees is expected Tuesday night, with a 29% chance of precipitation.
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Day 4, July 27: Emmetsburg to Mason City
From Emmetsburg to Mason City on day four, riders will tackle a 105-mile course, a tradition that has returned after 37 years as part of the main ride in tribute to the late RAGBRAI co-founder John Karras.
If 105 miles sounds daunting, don’t worry – RAGBRAI will have two additional support and equipment wagons on the road to serve those unable to complete on their own.
The weather along the route will be in favor of cyclists on Wednesday, with mostly sunny conditions and a high temperature of 84 degrees, according to AccuWeather. Winds will blow northwest at around 9 mph, with some gusts up to 27 mph.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Cory Martin, as RAGBRAI participants cycle 105 miles across the state, they should stay aware of the heat and take breaks to drink water.
“Every RAGBRAI, heat is a concern, especially since we’re at a time of year when it’s typically hot and humid,” Martin said. “It’s important to pay attention to your body. Make sure you take breaks, make sure you drink enough and make sure you give yourself time to cool down, especially at night, to allow your body to recover. “
Wednesday night will see a low temperature of 61 degrees.
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Day 5, July 28: Mason City to Charles City
Riders will get some respite from the 105-mile day with a relatively short 47.9-mile ride from Mason City to Charles City on day five.
Thursday’s route will see sunny conditions and a high temperature of 80 degrees. The wind is expected to blow northwest at 9 mph, with some gusts up to 23 mph, according to AccuWeather.
A low of 63 degrees is expected Thursday night in Charles City.
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Day 6, July 29: Charles City to West Union
The RAGBRAI route will take riders through 63 miles of eastern Iowa on day six, starting in Charles City and stopping in the meeting town of Lawler before ending the day in West Union.
Friday’s route is expected to be sunny with a high temperature of 81 degrees, according to AccuWeather. Winds will blow from the south/southwest at 4 mph, with some gusts up to 12 mph. Friday night will see a low of 63 degrees.
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Day 7, June 30: West Union to Lansing
In the final stage of RAGBRAI, cyclists will tackle 65.4 miles, starting in West Union and stopping in the meeting town of Postville before ending the ride in Lansing.
Saturday’s route will have a 55% chance of showers and thunderstorms, with a high temperature of 83 degrees, according to AccuWeather. Winds will blow from the south/southeast at 8 mph, with some gusts up to 21 mph.
For those camping one last night at RAGBRAI, Saturday night will see a low temperature of 67 degrees, with an 85% chance of showers and thunderstorms.
Grace Altenhofen is a reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @gracealtenhofen.