By David Bern — Nearly 2,000 cyclists competed in 2019 race from Logan to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
For Roger Arnell winning the 2019 LoToJa Classic on September 7 was more about having a great day on the bike with his team than trying to set a new record on the 202-mile (325K) parcours.
And for Alison Tetrick it was a pleasure to win the endurance road race from Logan, Utah, to Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort that she’s heard about for years.
Arnell, 34, who rides for Johnson Elite Orthodontics, won the Men’s Pro 123 race with a finish time of 8:45:51 and an average speed of 23 mph. The Cat. 1 racer from Farmington, Utah, beat Gilberto Melendez (Team Stonehouse P&S Racing p/b Masi) of Tucson, Arizona, to the line by 3 seconds after the two broke away with 14 miles to go.
“It was really super cool to win,” Arnell said, who has ridden LoToJa seven times with several high finishes and a first-place in 2008 as a citizen racer. “As a team, we executed everything perfectly. I didn’t care about trying to break the record. … It meant more to have a great experience with the team. … And to have teammates also place well.”
His teammates, Spencer Johnson and Nathan Manwaring, took third and fourth place, respectively, in a five-man sprint with a time of 8:47:59. Johnson won the Men’s Pro 123 race in 2018 and set a new course record of 8:18:29 with an average speed of 24.35 mph. The women’s course record is 9:35:00, which was set by Melinda MacFarlane in 2013.
Tetrick, 34, won the Women’s Pro 123 race with a time of 9:42:07 and an average speed of 21 mph. Sponsored by Specialized, the Pro UCI rider from Petaluma, California, soloed 47 miles after Alpine Junction (156mi/251km) to the finish at Teton Village after leaving behind breakaway companions Marci Kimball (Team Plan 7) and Heidi Madsen (Team Ascent Cycle RBHealth).
“This was the first road race I’ve done that’s more than 120 miles,” Tetrick said. “It was a great day. The race is so well supported and organized. … And seeing the Grand Teton coming in really got me going, like blood in the water.”
Tetrick raced professionally on the road in Europe for 10 years, competed in the 2014 UCI World Road Championships, and won the 200-mile Dirty Kanza gravel race in 2017. She still holds DK’s women’s course record of 11:40:41, which she set in 2017. Tetrick took second place in DK 2019.
Kimball, a past LoToJa winner and the race’s current QOM record holder, took second place at 9:50:36 with Madsen taking third at 9:52:20. Next in was multiple past LoToJa winner Jennifer Halladay (Team Bob’s Bicycle) at 9:57:22, followed by Eleise Hinton (Team Zone 5) at 10:12:16 and Anne Perry at 10:12:20.
Arnell, who has been racing for 10 years, said his strategy on race day was to stay in the breaks, and to respond to opportunities to be in a good position at the end.
In a 10-man break with 20 miles to go, Arnell rolled off the front and soon had a gap while crossing the Snake River and starting the day’s last climb before turning onto South Loop Road outside of Jackson. On the climb, Melendez bridged up to Arnell and the two began to work together.
Although the break tried to chase them down in the final kilometers, the two stayed away. Arnell said Melendez went to the front with 1K to go and soon after began to sprint. Arnell hung onto his wheel and after the 200-meter mark, sprinted around Melendez.
“I had to win,” Arnell said about his determination to take first. “There was no other option.”
There were 30 cyclists in the Men’s Pro 123 race.
Tetrick said she, Kimball and Madsen got away from the field, which had 55 total riders at the start in Logan, while climbing to Strawberry/Emigration Canyon’s 7,424-foot summit (57mi/92km). The trio stayed off the front through Montpelier (76mi/122km) and over 6,923-foot Geneva Summit (84mi/135km).
The three regrouped at the top of LoToJa’s highest summit, 7,630-foot Salt River Pass (106mi/171km), after Kimball rode off to win the QOM prize. The climb features a 9-percent pitch during the last mile.
Tetrick said the three worked together through Star Valley to the feed zone at Alpine Junction (156mi/251km). But Tetrick didn’t linger at the feed zone.
“I got antsy,” she said, and rode the rest of the way to the finish alone. The sight of the Grand Teton made her pedal even harder to make sure she stayed away. The effort kept Kimball more than 8-minutes back.
In all there were nearly 2,000 USA Cycling licensed and unlicensed riders in the race, which featured 31 categories including relay teams and cyclosportive riders. Categories left Logan in three-minute intervals.
Weather was favorable with mild fall temperatures and clear skies. However, cyclists faced hard head- and cross-winds through Star Valley.
LoToJa is billed as the longest one-day USA Cycling-sanctioned bicycle race in the U.S., with three mountain passes, and nearly 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. Licensed cyclists ride 202 miles (325km) and cyclosportive riders 207 miles (333km) while passing through northern Utah, southeastern Idaho and western Wyoming.
The race begins at Sunrise Cyclery in Logan and finishes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The race was first held in 1983 with only seven cyclists. Nearly 2,000 rode LoToJa last September. It was the race’s 37th anniversary event.
LoToJa Race Director Brent Chambers said the 2019 race was a success and plans are well underway for 2020’s event, which will be held September 12. LoToJa’s 2020 website will be launched March 1 with online registration April 8-15.
- LoToJa is the longest one-day USAC-sanctioned bicycle race in the United States (Race Route: 202.3 miles; Ride Route: 207.3 miles).
- The course features almost 9,800 feet of climbing, most of it in the first 110 miles.
- The event offers several “race” and “ride” categories for competitive as well as recreational cyclists.
- In a typical year, LoToJa cyclists travel to Logan from 40 U.S. states and five foreign countries.
- Most participants finish in 10-12 hours (on average, 80-85% of the participants who start LoToJa will finish); 82.7% finished in 2019.
- Fastest cyclists will average over 23 miles per hour
- It's estimated a racing cyclist burns up to 15,000 calories in LoToJa.
- Since 1983, more than 20,000 cyclists have pedaled over 6 million miles to cross the finish line in LoToJa.
- LoToJa’s average participant age in 2019 was 45
- Youngest individual finisher’s: Male: 13 (several years); Female: 13 (2013)
- Oldest individual finishers:
- Male: Michael Washburn, 76 (2018)
- Female: Diane Tracy, 67 (2018)
- Oldest individual category winner:
- Male: Larry Peterson, Centerville, Utah, age 74 (2018)
- Female: Celeste Liljenquist, Bountiful, Utah, age 56 (2016)
- For all LoToJa Course Records, see lotoja.com
- LoToJa involves over 600 course volunteers; 150 are HAM radio operators providing radio communications and neutral support
- LoToJa’s fundraising efforts for Huntsman Cancer Foundation (HCF) exceeds $2 million.
- National Ability Center, Common Ground Outdoor Adventures, Utah High School Cycling League, Bike Utah, and several community organizations/youth groups also benefit from the event.