A veteran cycling event organizer will take the helm of the Registry’s annual big bike ride through Iowa, RAGBRAI announced Sunday.
Dieter Drake, 48, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, comes to RAGBRAI after hosting more than 100 bike rides and races over 15 years. It started in 2004 with a small race in Cambridge, New York, which grew into the annual Tour of the Battenkill, now one of the biggest pro-am cycling events in the United States. Since then, he has organized cycling events all over the country.
Currently, Drake and his wife, Amy, run their own business, Anthem Sports Tours, operating bike tours primarily in southern Chile. He will hold one last tour of the anthem there before moving to Iowa to begin his new duties on Dec. 16, he said.
Drake has no previous experience with RAGBRAI but said he is ready to start working with community leaders throughout Iowa. RAGBRAI officials usually announce in January the list of cities where cyclists will sleep each night.
The 48th edition of the event will run July 19-25, starting in western Iowa and heading east to the Mississippi River.
“That’s exactly my speed,” Drake said. “It’s small towns. It’s bikes. It’s beer. It’s exactly the kind of audience I want to be around while riding a bike.”
Wes Hall, who served as RAGBRAI’s deputy director from 2007 to 2013, will also join the RAGBRAI team as a logistics consultant. Anne Lawrie, RAGBRAI’s senior marketing director, said Hall will work closely with Drake on operational strategy, communication with cities along the route, ride timeline and route planning.
Hall, 40, is the general manager of Cedar Point Sports Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Previously, he served as Executive Director of the Hampton Roads, Virginia Athletic Commission and held similar positions in Omaha, Nebraska, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
“My decision to get involved with RAGBRAI for the second time is just an effort to help a tradition that has been going on for 47 years,” Hall said. “I have some historical knowledge of the event and its logistical operation, and I hope to share this information to help the next race director continue this great tradition.”
The registry and RAGBRAI are separate entities, but both are owned by Gannett Co.
Lawrie said RAGBRAI chose Drake because his expertise in organizing competitive and recreational cycling events made him well-positioned to lead the tour across Iowa, whose thousands of annual attendees range from organized teams to casual cyclists. who join for a single day.
“I think for us his past experience stands on its own,” Lawrie said. “He has designed over 100 cycling events and is qualified to lead RAGBRAI operations today and into the future.”
Drake replaces TJ Juskiewicz, who left the position of director of RAGBRAI in October. Juskiewicz said his decision to resign was the result of a disagreement stemming from controversy surrounding the Des Moines Registry Management from a profile of Carson King, who became a viral sensation when his request for beer money on a sign he held up during an ESPN “College GameDay” segment in Ames turned into a campaign fundraiser that raised $3 million for the University of Iowa Stead Children’s Family Hospital.
Juskiewicz announced Oct. 15 that he would be hosting his own interstate cycling event, called Iowa’s Ride, during the same week and in the same west-east direction as RAGBRAI. Some long-time vendors associated with RAGBRAI, including food truck operators and owners of charter companies who provide logistical services to cyclists on the route, expressed concerns both from the apparent competition and the loss of institutional knowledge represented by Juskiewicz’s departure from RAGBRAI.
But in recent weeks, three of RAGBRAI’s most popular charter companies – Pork Belly Ventures, Brancel Charters and Out of Staters – have re-entered the historic race. In addition, Iowa’s Ride has changed its schedule from July 12 to 18, the week before RAGBRAI, and its direction, from east to west. He said in a Facebook post that he was responding to concerns raised by cycling teams who were split over which route to take.
Drake acknowledged that there was still work to be done to heal the divisions in the cycling community and ensure RAGBRAI ran smoothly.
“There are bridges that need fixing,” Drake said. “But Anne (Lawrie) has kind of been the interim default director. She’s done an incredible job of reaching out to the communities affected by the event.”
He said he looked forward to working with Lawrie and other members of the RAGBRAI team.
“Our goal is to make it as good as ever and better,” Drake said. “I think we have some good ideas to grow the event and grow the base of participation.”
Drake said he was particularly excited about attracting more international runners.
“Everyone I know knows RAGBRAI,” he said, “Even people in Iceland, people in Spain. We want to bring them here and get them to spend their money here.
Drake has long treated the cycling events he organizes as a family affair. He said his wife handles the registration and their seven children are also involved. One of their sons started directing traffic in the event parking lots when he was 6 years old. Another son drives the support van that helps runners who fall behind. Their eldest, Wyatt, 22, recently supervised one of the aid stations on their ride.
“It’s been our family for a long, long time,” Drake said. “I just say ‘come on’ a few weeks before the event – or even the day before the event – and they know what to do.”
Drake said Lawrie and officials at endurance event company Rugged Racing recruited him for the job of RAGBRAI. Rugged Racing previously took over the Tour of the Battenkill, although Drake remains involved as an unofficial adviser.
Rugged Racing is a division of the former GateHouse Media Inc., who finalized a merger with Gannett Co. on Nov. 19.
A graduate of North Carolina State University with degrees in mechanical engineering and fisheries management and wildlife biology, Drake was a scholarship student on the track and cross-country teams.
Forced to reduce his running activities due to injuries, he took up cycling in the late 1990s at the request of a friend and became a competitive runner. Originally from upstate New York, Drake returned there to organize rides and work in heating, ventilation and air conditioning. When that activity slowed during the Great Recession in 2008, he turned to cycling full-time and moved to Colorado in 2015.
In addition to Drake, Hall and Lawrie, the RAGBRAI team includes:
- Suzanne Milosevich, creative director of RAGBRAI, who is the creator of the annual logos, merchandise and marketing elements, and oversees brand strategy. Milosevich has worked at RAGBRAI since 2012 and at the Register in marketing roles for 26 years.
- Madison Stegman, Merchandise and Customer Service Coordinator, who has been with RAGBRAI for five years.
- Nic Lovan, Enrollment Coordinator, fulfillment and shipping and has been with RAGBRAI for two years.
Meet Dieter Drake
Dieter Drake, the new director of the Registry’s annual Great Bike Ride in Iowa, and Anne Lawrie, RAGBRAI’s senior marketing manager, are scheduled to speak and answer questions on Sunday, Dec. 1 at an event hosted by the North Iowa Touring Club in Fat Hill. Brewery, 17 N. Federal Ave., Mason City. The event begins at noon, and Drake and Lawrie are scheduled to appear at 1 p.m. (Drake is scheduled to fly to Iowa on Sunday morning; Lawrie will speak alone if Drake’s trip is delayed by weather.) Also on the poster is Iowa’s Ride, TJ. Juskiewicz, who will speak and answer questions at 2:45 p.m.