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In the small central Iowa town of Colfax, thousands of cyclists participating in the largest and oldest recreational bike ride in the world were stopped along its historic main street, staring ahead at a daunting climb that would lead them out of town.

The hill, coupled with soaring temps and the vibrant downtown, made a morning sitting in the shade quite appealing.

It’s become almost simplistic to say that “small-town America” is slowly dying. That opportunities for young people have dried up, just like businesses and main streets. That the only way forward in life involves moving to a big city. But the reality is towns such as Colfax are flourishing, and that was especially evident on RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride across the state, where dozens of small towns dotting the 500-mile route welcomed some 50,000 riders with open arms.


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