CORALVILLE — Cyclists from Johnson County and beyond took to the county’s byways Sunday for the granGable cycling event that led participants on a scenic tour throughout the area.
Toni Rogers, clad in Hawkeye colors, stood among her small group of cycling friends and family early Sunday morning at the Iowa River Landing, about to embark on their 25-mile ride.
The 46-year-old Iowa City resident said she’s been an avid cyclist for the past 15 years and, being raised in a wrestling family, had to participate in the granGable to “support the coach,” the event’s namesake and legendary former University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable.
Josh Schamberger, president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said with FRY Fest in place to honor former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry, there needed to be an event to honor Gable.
“(The ride) is a test for cyclists and there’s no better person to name it after than Dan Gable,” Schamberger said.
Schamberger said Gable immediately was thrilled to be a part of the event. Gable drove along the route, which took riders past his home, in a yellow convertible. Later in the day, he hopped onto a bike and rode with participants to the finish line at the Iowa River Landing. After the ride, Gable took photos with cyclists and handed them their completion medals.
“Dan Gable loves it,” Schamberger said. “Anything that tests mental and physical endurance, Dan Gable wants to be a part of it.”
The name granGable is a twist of the Italian term “gran fondo,” meaning a large, organized bike ride.
The idea for the event started in January, when Schamberger collaborated with the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and RAGBRAI organizers to develop a series of routes that would appeal to a variety of riders. The event included 25-, 60- and 100-mile routes, which loop through area towns including Tiffin, North Liberty, Oxford, the Amana Colonies and, for the longer route, Swisher, Sutliff, Solon and Iowa City.
Clarissa McPheron, an event organizer and special events assistant for the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the event shows out-of-town participants some of the area’s attractions — from the Iowa River Landing in Coralville to Millstream Brewing in the Amana Colonies.
For the event’s inaugural year, Schamberger said he’s thrilled that more than 750 participants took to the road, including 430 from outside Johnson County and from 17 states.
Abbie Wynja, a part of Rogers’ group, waited for the 10 a.m. unofficial start for the 25-mile riders. The 22-year-old said she was excited but a little nervous about her first big bicycle ride.
“It’s going to be a long day and it’s going to be hard,” the West Des Moines resident said with a laugh as her group responded with words of encouragement.
Schamberger, who has been a cyclist for 11 years, said the various routes open the event up to a wide range of participants.
“That’s the great thing about cycling is that everyone can go at their own pace,” he said.