It’s hard to imagine human trafficking happens in Iowa — but right in our own backyards, women are being sexually exploited by predators.
But using our own mental and physical power — we can be a part of the solution.
The Velorosa Cycling Team is proud to ride and volunteer with Break the Cycle 200 — a ride aimed at comprehensive reform to end human trafficking.
And we want you to join us too.
Break the Cycle 200 is offering its signature 200-mile ride on June 25, as well as 25, 50 and 100-mile rides on June 26 to fundraise and help victims of trafficking.
Whether you want to ride the whole 200, bring out your family for 25, or even volunteer — we can come together and use our strength to help support other women (and have fun together along the way!)
We chatted with Rocky Vest, the co-founder of the ride, as well as some Velorosa ladies to shed light on human trafficking, tips on how to train for the ride and personal stories on why we've been involved.
Human trafficking in Iowa
When Rocky Vest asked a volunteer at Break the Cycle why she decided to help out in Okoboji that day in 2018, her answer surprised him — she was a victim of trafficking herself and told Vest she wanted to support the ride.
“She stopped me in my tracks,” Vest said.
Iowa’s location at the junction of Interstates 35/80 makes it easy to transport goods across state lines — but it also makes it appealing to human traffickers, both in metro areas like Des Moines and smaller, rural communities.
And misconceptions about trafficking can make victims more invisible to us. There isn’t the “stranger danger” that people are wary of. Instead, it’s a slow manipulation of vulnerable women, who are typically exploited by a boyfriend or family member they trust in their lives, Vest said.
But there’s comprehensive ways BTC 200 has already worked to put an end to human trafficking:
Policy reform: BTC helped pass legislation in 2020 requiring hotel staff to complete trafficking prevention training. Hotels are where trafficking primarily occurs.
Rescue: Hired an Iowa-based investigator to assist law enforcement on trafficking cases.
Restoration: Supported local non-profits aiding victims themselves, like Dorothy’s House.
For the future, Vest said he’s working on a comprehensive list of bills aimed at preventing human trafficking and hiring a second investigator.
“We’re not just riding bikes,” Vest said.
Why they ride
When Velorosa team members Rose Willey and Deanne Herr first considered riding Break the Cycle 200 in 2019 — the long mileage was intimidating.
But after attending an information session and learning about the problem locally here — they both agreed to do it. (And Rose was even recovering from Typhoid!)
“You don’t think about it in central Iowa. You don’t think about human trafficking close to here,” Rose said. “I’m going to ride my bike anyway, so I might as well do it for this really awesome thing.”
They slowly built up their hours on the saddle, did some cross-training and committed to a training schedule, dedicating themselves to a certain number of riding time every week.
With the training part down, there was a whole other part to also take steps towards — fundraising.
Rose updated her training progress through social media and offered creative ways people could donate, like inviting $5 donations for every hour she trained indoors, which she shared on Instagram Live.
Deanne was nervous about asking for money — but she found that just sharing why she’s riding and the stories of trafficking victims made it easy to get donations.
“It was not that hard to raise money for it. This is one of the causes where you can trust where the money goes,” Deanne said.
As for the actual ride — it was not easy. But the peloton worked together to help everyone keep going and pull up riders if someone fell back.
For Rose — the wall came after mile 160 when the sun beat down on her, raising temperatures above 90 degrees.
She struggled to stay cool, but fellow riders helped dump water on her. At a rest stop — it was make it or break it.
She got some ice, dunked her head under a faucet and gave herself an ice bath.
After that — she was in it for the home stretch.
But what really helped her persevere, was remembering why she was there.
“It changes your mindset. Comparing what someone in this life goes through when they’re a victim of human trafficking … it seems so insignificant when you’re thinking, ‘Man, my legs hurt,’” Rose said.
At the finish, the elation Rose and Deanne felt was unlike any other and they already decided — yes, they were going to do it again.
“You just don’t know how strong you are until you push beyond what you think you can do,” Deanne said.
The most important thing though is even if you don’t finish 200 (or 100, 50 or 25) — it’s a victory to just show up, put in the time and make a difference.
”I think people are afraid of failing. I wish we could remove that. There’s no shame only making it 120 miles or 150 miles,” Rose said. “If that’s a failure — you’re awesome.”
Some tips from them on how to prepare for the 200-mile ride (or less!)
Get a proper bike fit.
Think about training today — you want to have a solid base three weeks before the event.
Get in some long rides where you don’t stop often. (Think of up to 25 miles with short breaks if you’re doing the 200.)
Know how to stretch out your legs and stand without getting off the bike.
Get in long rides on the weekends.
Think of creative routes and places you want to see to mix it up.
Find people who ride faster than you and practice in a group setting, especially if you’re doing the 200-mile ride.
Have fun! Plan to have friends join at spots or make ice cream or beer a destination.
You can register for your preferred ride here or volunteer here.
We’ll see you at the after-party!