◆ Cyclists ready to ride America’s longest, one-day sanctioned bicycle race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson, Wyoming.
Provided by LoToJa
LAYTON, UTAH — Held every year since 1983, a renowned Utah bicycle race is about to achieve a milestone.
On September 10 more than 1,500 cyclists will race or ride 203 miles from Logan, Utah, to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the 40th annual LoToJa Classic. The event is one of the most iconic and popular point-to-point cycling road races in America.
“Hitting 40 consecutive years is an impressive accomplishment,” said Brent Chambers, LoToJa’s race director since 1998. “But it’s also humbling. I’m grateful for the race’s four decades — all made possible thanks to tremendous support from cyclists, volunteers, sponsors and the communities LoToJa passes through.”
This year’s race will feature USA Cycling licensed racers, cyclosportive cyclists, relay teams and tandem riders from 38 states, Canada and Denmark. They will start at dawn at Sunrise Cyclery in Logan and ride on scenic back roads for 203 miles across northeastern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming.
The fastest licensed racers cross the finish line at the ski resort around mid-afternoon. The current men’s record is 8:18:29 and the women’s is 9:35:00. But most take 10 to 13 hours to complete the course. The fastest licensed riders win cash and/or goods, and all who complete LoToJa earn a finisher’s medal that commemorates their accomplishment.
But for many, crossing the finish line with the 13,776 foot-high Grand Teton nearby is the day’s biggest prize.
LoToJa’s vistas and challenging course combine to take cyclists’ breath away and sting the legs. It features three mountain passes that total 35 miles and almost 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. Besides scenic alpine climbs, cyclists also roll through Utah’s Cache Valley; Idaho’s Preston and Montpelier; and Afton, Thayne, Etna and Alpine in Wyoming’s Star Valley. After Alpine, cyclists ride 47 miles up Snake River Canyon and past Hoback Junction to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
During the race’s final 14 miles, the Grand Teton and the Teton Range come into full view. The sight of “The Grand” inspires tired riders toward the finish line.
LoToJa is recognized as the longest, one-day USA Cycling sanctioned road race in America. In its 40th consecutive year, it could be said the race joins a respected league of USAC-sanctioned races that have withstood the test of time, like the 77-year-old Tour of Somerville in New Jersey.
Besides its 203-mile distance and tenure, LoToJa is highly popular. Several thousand riders from across the U.S. and other nations register every April. But less than 2,000 are accepted to keep safety and the quality of the cycling experience high. LoToJa’s distance, scenery and Jackson finish — with Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park nearby — are all part of its allure.
So, too, is the event’s commitment to raise funds for worthy causes. Over the years, LoToJa has evolved into a major fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation and other health-related organizations. More than $2.6 million has been contributed to Huntsman alone by cyclists and sponsors.
LoToJa began in 1983 by two Logan cyclists who wanted to create an enduring one-day race in the spirit of professional cycling’s five grand monuments like Paris-Roubaix and Ronde van Vlaanderen. Logan-Jackson was born, and given the acronym, LoToJa.
In that first year, seven cyclists competed and crossed the finish line near downtown Jackson. The winner was Bob VanSlyke of Logan who finished the 186-mile course in nine hours. In 1986 the finish line was moved to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, which increased the race’s distance to over 200 miles.
Since then, LoToJa has grown to feature multiple categories for USAC license holders, plus non-licensed cyclosportive cyclists who are either competing against riders within their age group, or are just riding for fun. There are also multiple categories for relay and tandem riders.
Chambers said the race wouldn’t be possible without its 600 volunteers, and cooperation and help from businesses, civic leaders, public safety officials and communities. Also making it possible are the 140 Ham radio operators from the Bridgerland Amateur Radio Club. They provide uninterrupted communication throughout LoToJa’s mountainous and remote terrain.
To further increase cyclists’ safety, the Idaho Transportation Department will restrict eastbound vehicle traffic on state Route 36 north of Preston between Riverdale and Ovid from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastbound traffic on US-89 between Montpelier and the Wyoming state line will also be restricted from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Motorists traveling on LoToJa’s course on Sept. 10 are asked to use caution when approaching cyclists. Groups consisting of several riders may be present. Cautious passing is advised to ensure safety for everyone.
Chambers defined “cautious passing” as slowing down, giving at least three feet of space be- tween the vehicle and cyclist(s), and patiently waiting for oncoming vehicle traffic to clear before pulling around a cyclist or group of cyclists.
LoToJa’s riders, support crews, event staff, volunteers and well-wishers, represent an entourage of approximately 3,000 people, Chambers said. Several of the communities through which the race passes organize roadside fundraisers to capitalize on the influx of visitors. The host cities of Logan and Jackson also enjoy an economic boost from the race, specifically restaurants and hotels.
According to Chambers, more than 21,000 cyclists have pedaled nearly 7 million miles during LoToJa since the race began 40 years ago.
“LoToJa continues to be an extraordinary bicycle race because of the landscape it crosses and how it challenges the physical, mental and emotional endurance of every cyclist who rides it,” he said. “Cyclists who cross the finish line feel a deep sense of accomplishment — a person- al victory that lasts a lifetime. To organize such an event that gives so much in return brings me a lot of joy.”
LoToJa’s route and additional information about the race are available at lotoja.com.